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  • Friday, March 04, 2005


    Bankruptcy and Health Care, Part II

    I originally commented and noted this subject here, but it's worth another look. I know from personal experience that bankruptcy isn't just for the fiscally irresponsible. I came within an inch of personal bankruptcy. What did I go into debt over? Big ticket items? Living beyond my means? Nope, unemployment, food and medical bills. One person's financial molehill is another's mountain. From Bad to Worse:

    If you have not lived long enough to know that anyone can be hit by financial catastrophe, just wait. Your job, too, can be outsourced. And if you think health insurance can keep you out of financial trouble if you get sick – surprise! Three-fourths of those who filed for bankruptcy because of medical costs had health insurance.

    The study in Health Affairs reports that the middle class actually suffers most from the health crisis, accounting for 90 percent of all medical bankruptcies: Drug costs alone drive many into bankruptcy.

    In a classic example of moral accounting, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the bill's chief sponsor, said, "People who have the ability to repay some or all of their debt should not be able to use bankruptcy as a financial planning tool so they get out of paying their debt scot-free, while honest Americans who play by the rules have to foot the bill."

    That's a startling example of the "straw-man" school of argument. The study by the Harvard profs shows that in the two years before filing for bankruptcy, 19 percent of families went without food, 40 percent had their phone service shut off, 43 percent could not fill a doctor's prescription and 53 percent went without important medical care.

    So, who are these feckless, irresponsible moochers using bankruptcy to avoid paying legitimate debts? Why, look at this: The New York Times reports "legal specialists say the proposed law leaves open an increasingly popular loophole that lets wealthy people protect substantial assets from creditors even after filing for bankruptcy."

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