Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bankruptcy and the Health of a Nation

Reuters today reported that bankruptcies are at the highest since 2005. The ever growing unemployment count, the housing crisis and credit crunch has led to an influx of filings for consumers needing help. The stats are startling:

There were 330,477 filings in the January-to-March period, up 10 percent from the previous quarter and up 35 percent from a year earlier, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said this week. Consumer bankruptcy filings rose 33 percent from a year earlier, while business filings rose 64 percent.

The recent spike in business filings is of even more concern as the economy looks to find a way out of the current recession. Bankruptcies of this magnitude like the recent auto makers Chapter 11 filings have lead to not only individuals, but entire towns in disarray. It is no wonder Sen. Dick Durbin ranted as he did and the forthcoming economic analysis does not point to a change in these numbers any time soon.

So what do we do? How can all this be stopped? Well there are some band aids that can be applied. Congress passed a Credit Card reform bill bringing some logic with some illogical add-ons, however the Bankruptcy Reform bill did not pass. Hence the rant from Durbin. It seems that the next logical step is to find other means to circumvent the issue and get to roots of the problem.


Medical bills are behind more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday in a report they said demonstrates that healthcare reform is on the wrong track.

More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine.

This effects us all. The overwhelming factor here is basic health, you can try to paint it as many things, but the heart of it is our right to live as Himmelstein puts it, "Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy."

Health care is an everyone matter. Race, religion, gender it is an umbrella issue. Think of the convenience store on the corner, the newspaper delivery guy, the woman or man you see every day on the train, the family restaurant you frequent, your neighbor, the pub where you chat it up with locals. Individuals, businesses and your family cannot afford a misstep. This a subject that cannot be fettered by political posturing or catch phrases meant to alter the debate. The gamesmanship should and needs to be had elsewhere and that is why we must push for the public option.

Ezra Klein:

It doesn't replace the insurance individuals already rely on. But it provides an alternative. It lets them make the decision. It's the health care equivalent of being pro-choice. And it thus serves two purposes. The first is to act as a public insurer. To use market share to bargain down the prices of services, much as Medicare does. To lower administrative costs. To operate outside the need for profit, and quarterly results.

As many have pointed out health care and health insurance should never have been about profitability. The moment it did we lost a right. As seen with the recent spike in bankruptcies this is directly related to the health of our Nation; the economy and millions of families' well-being our in the balance. It is important to support the public option to move forward and allow progressive health care policies to trump greed, fear and selfishness. Time for us to have a choice.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message.

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