There is the sublime, and there is the ridiculous.
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.So proud. So independent. So...OOPS!
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. Those bills could change Brown from a symbol of proud independence into an example of exactly the problem the healthcare law was intended to address.So while this sterling example of rugged individualism objects on moral grounds to having to pay for insurance, and has by her actions attempted to impose her moral sensibilities on the rest of the U.S. population, she apparently has no problem seeking the relief of the United States Bankruptcy Code in an effort to reduce or erase her medical debts.
This woman signed on as the "model plaintiff" challenging the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The "National Federation of Independent Business," the GOP-laden lobbying group that brought the lawsuit, calls the mandate a "threat to individual liberty" and says it violates the Constitution in places that my own strict constructionism fails to find any mention of health insurance.
Wikipedia describes these noble Protectors of Liberty who selected Ms. Brown as their frontispiece as follows:
On its website, the National Federation of Independent Business states that it is a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1943" and "represents the consensus views of its members in Washington and all 50 state capitals." Its PAC is called Save America's Free Enterprise Trust (SAFE). The organization's donations tend to strongly favor Republicans.Apparently they looked high and low for a poster child. But they didn't have a lot to choose from:
In 2010, 25 of its members, all Republican, were elected to the 112th Congress. A number of them, such as Rand Paul, Jeff Duncan, Paul Gosar and Kristi Noem, are affiliated with or endorsed by the Tea Party movement. The same year, the NFIB opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act health care reform legislation while some other small business advocates supported the measure. The organization joined 26 states in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Act.
"There was time pressure" to find a plaintiff for the case, Harned said. "And candidly, it is not as easy as it sounds" to find someone. She recalls that Brown was outspoken and stepped forward as a volunteer. The lawyers found a second plaintiff in Kaj Ahlburg, a retired New York investment banker living in Port Angeles, Wash.Astonishingly, some learned Reagan-appointed Judge eagerly latched on to Ms Brown's moral stance as a justification for his opinions holding the Act unconstitutional:
[W]hen U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson declared the mandate unconstitutional in January 2011, he pointed to Mary Brown's complaint. "She is a small-business owner" who "does not believe the cost of health insurance is a wise or acceptable use of her resources," he said.Brown's lawyers claim that her unpaid medical bills were only a "small part" of the reason she filed for Bankruptcy. Whether that's true or not, it ignores a rather significant issue that goes to the entire purpose of the ACA:
The terms bankruptcy and health care go hand and hand. Startling estimates have found that more than 60% of bankruptcy filings are for medical bills. Even more startling is that the people filing for bankruptcy for medical bills are not just the uninsured but people that did indeed have health insurance.Understand, I have no problem with the idea of filing for Bankruptcy. And if Ms Brown and her husband found themselves underwater due to the economy, they're in good company in this country. What I do have a problem with is some Tea Party-affiliated lobbying group with members the likes of Rand Paul holding up this woman as an example of the "liberty" we're supposed to enjoy under their helpful aegis, while simultaneously trying to undermine the rest of us who would prefer to avoid her fate.
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