Mary Brown, whose case against the 2010 healthcare reform law is pending before the Supreme Court, argues that the government shouldn't be able to force her to carry health insurance. Joined by three other individuals and a small-business trade association, she's asking the justices to rule that the law's insurance mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the act should be thrown out with it. But new revelations about her own situation make the case for the other side.
As The Times' David Savage reported, Brown and her husband have fallen on hard times since filing the lawsuit, largely because their auto repair business in Florida failed. The couple have filed for bankruptcy protection, asking a federal court to wipe out close to $60,000 in consumer debts. Significantly, their unpaid bills include $2,750 owed to a local hospital and physicians group and $1,735 to out-of-state medical specialists.
The disclosures are political gold for the Obama administration, transforming Brown from a champion of individual liberty into an exemplar of a problem the new law was designed to address. Uninsured and underinsured Americans rack up about $60 billion in medical bills every year that they cannot afford, forcing doctors and hospitals to pass those costs on to federal taxpayers and those patients who can pay their bills. It's not impinging on personal freedom to ask people to cover their own medical tabs. The mechanism Congress created to do that is the individual mandate.