Tuesday, July 1, 2008

21st Century Dynamic Duo: Bankruptcy and Health Care

Since my wife's family is mostly in the Indiana area, I tend to check out the news up there fairly frequently, especially with the recent levee failures and flooding. That is how I stumbled upon this letter to the editor by Fran Quigly, Director of Operations for the Indiana-Kenya Partnership, on IndyStar.com. The introductory paragraphs should be enough to get you started:

It is Friday morning at the federal courthouse in Downtown Indianapolis, and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Trustee Gregory Silver sits behind a low table in a room on the fourth floor calling out names of Hoosiers who have filed for discharge of their debts. In a somber scene with the air of a fiscal confessional booth, many petitioners come forward with slumped shoulders and slightly bowed heads, and then softly answer Silver's questions about the financial collapses that led them to this room.

A young woman from Southside Indianapolis has racked up enormous debt due to the costs of childbirth. A middle-aged couple from the Northwestside was sued for payment of their medical bills. Another woman had the misfortune of being attacked by a dog before health insurance from her new job kicked in. Even after turning a lawsuit settlement over to bill collectors for hospitals and doctors, she still owes them $35,000.

The rest of the letter is well worth reading, and if you have strong stomach the comments are interesting as well. I think the comment streams one finds on articles like this make for an interesting study, most particularly the anonymous comments. People tend to speak their minds pretty staunchly when they do have to worry about being connected to their opinions publicly.The results can often be both vile and illuminating.

On a subject that combines high profile and controversy in the fashion that health care currently does the comments come thick and fast, a maelstrom of invective and opinion that demonstrate just how impassioned our populace is becoming on the subject.

The letter goes on to suggest potential paths for improvement, and quotes a 2005 Harvard study that found fifty percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. stem from medical bills.

Fifty percent. Think about it.

SOURCE: "A day in bankruptcy court would make you sick" 06/30/08
photo courtesy of danesparza used under its Creative Commons license

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