Opinion: ‘Obamacare’ plaintiff Brown’s bankruptcy: Instant karma?


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

What do you call it when someone who is suing to overturn the healthcare reform law files for bankruptcy, listing $4,500 in unpaid medical bills?

Karma? Fate? A lucky break for President Obama?

Really, you can’t make this stuff up. Here’s what The Times’ David Savage wrote Thursday:


Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama’s healthcare law because she was passionate about the issue. Brown ‘doesn’t have insurance. She doesn’t want to pay for it. And she doesn’t want the government to tell her she has to have it,’ said Karen Harned, a lawyer for the National Federation of Independent Business. Brown is a plaintiff in the federation’s case, which the Supreme Court plans to hear later this month. But court records reveal that Brown and her husband filed for bankruptcy last fall with $4,500 in unpaid medical bills.

Now, you might expect Brown to be a bit, well, chagrined at this turn of events. But remember, as Savage wrote, she ‘was passionate about the issue.’

And she apparently still is:

Brown, reached by telephone Thursday, said the medical bills were her husband’s. ‘I always paid my bills, as well as my medical bills,’ she said angrily. ‘I never said medical insurance is not a necessity. It should be anyone’s right to what kind of health insurance they have. ‘I believe that anyone has unforeseen things that happen to them that are beyond their control,’ Brown said. ‘Who says I don’t have insurance right now?’

Who says? Well, Mary, your lawyer for one. Remember: She ‘doesn’t have insurance. She doesn’t want to pay for it. And she doesn’t want the government to tell her she has to have it.’

Oh yeah, that. Those lawyers, always running their mouths.

And for that matter, Mary, those aren’t your husband’s medical bills, at least not anymore. Now that you’ve filed for bankruptcy, they are probably our medical bills, aren’t they?

Although it’s not as though Brown is totally anti-government: The couple’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition said her income was $275 a month in unemployment benefits.


So perhaps she intends to put that toward what she owes: ‘$2,140 to Bay Medical Center in Panama City, $610 to Bay Medical Physicians, $835 to an eye doctor in Alabama and $900 to a specialist in Mississippi.’

Or maybe, as the story says, there’s that other way out:

‘This is a very common problem. We cover $30 million in charity and uncompensated care every year,’ said Christa Hild, a spokeswoman for the hospital center. ‘If it’s a bad debt, we have to absorb it.’

Although when the hospital center says ‘we,’ it means ‘us’ -- as in you and I, the ones who do pay for health insurance. We absorb it, in higher premium costs.

It’s called the free market, or ‘there’s no free lunch.’ (It’s also why a single-payer system such as Medicare would’ve been a better option than the law we’ve got, but that’s another post.)

But it’s also why the ‘individual mandate’ requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance was put into the law.

Why that is so hard for Brown and millions of other citizens to understand is beyond me.

This isn’t Charles Dickens’ London: We don’t have debtors’ prisons. If Brown and her fellow travelers have their way and the healthcare law is ruled unconstitutional, many others will take the risk ‘of unforeseen things that happen to them that are beyond their control.’


And if they get sick, and have medical bills they can’t pay, then they won’t pay. And neither will the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

The rest of us will pay.

You see, Mary, the requirement that everyone buy health insurance isn’t big bad government taking away your freedom.

It’s just common sense.


Jimmy Carter, shortchanged again

War on drugs’ big catch -- ‘Viagra man’

$3 billion in U.S. humanitarian aid buys little respect


-- Paul Whitefield