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Years ago, I was a bankruptcy attorney. I don't miss it at all, but it gives me a different perspective on things.

For instance, despite all the moaning and complaining about credit cards (much of it deserved), credit cards are not often the problem that people see a bankruptcy attorney about. Some people get in over their head. Some people manage until they lose their jobs or have a dramatic pay cut. Some people do play the system, but most people really want to pay their bills, no matter how overwhelming.

But the major thing that drives people in are medical bills. If the government were serious about wanting to help people avoid bankruptcy, it would fix the health care system.

For instance, I received a notice the other day from the hospital where I had my legs examined. Fortunately, I have insurance so it just explained the costs, and told me I owed nothing. If I didn't, though, that notice would have been a bill for $2600.

That overwhelms me. I'm working, but even with that, if I didn't have insurance, I couldn't afford that. I could make some kind of payment arrangement, but it would take a good long while to get out from under it.

In another example, when I practiced, I had a client who was HIV-positive and had no health insurance. He had no credit card debt. All his debt stemmed from the cocktail of medications he was taking - hundreds of dollars per week. The hospital couldn't give him any more drugs until he either paid off his bill (impossible) or filed bankruptcy. Sad.

There's another thing that drives people to bankruptcy. While credit cards are usurious (the government has completely forgotten to make this a crime), there are worse offenders. They are the check-cashing payday loan places. Which are virtually unregulated. They are a death spiral for consumers.

Now, I read this article, which shows a Tennessee Republican senator is a major force in keeping those unscrupulous places unregulated. Of course, they contribute heavily to his campaign. They want to point fingers at the banking industry, claiming they had nothing to do with the financial meltdown.

We know that. It doesn't mean you're not scumbags in desperate need of a government smackdown. Regulating you is long overdue. Now be quiet and crawl back under your rocks.

The whole financial system in this country is, simply, a nightmare. Until health care is fixed and until greed is not the central principle of ethics in business and government, nothing will get better. At most, we're putting a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound.

Of course, that's just a pipe dream. Crack pipe, probably.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
volvita
Mar. 10th, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
Given my experience as a credit counselor (who performed the federally mandated counseling for people filing bankruptcy) I could only nod in agreement with everything you said. Yes, people got into some ridiculous trouble with credit cards, but medical bills and payday loans were what really put people under a lot of the time.

Neil just had kidney stone surgery and it was $12,000. Fortunately, he is insured, and we only (haha, only) owe about $1,200. This sucks, but it will be manageable with a payment arrangement. I can't fathom what we would do if he didn't have insurance, though. It's terrifying to think of. And it infuriates me that so many people are in that position.
thndrstd
Mar. 10th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
It's frustrating, sad, and true. I'm glad Neil is better and he only has to come up with $1200.
starfallz
Mar. 10th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this post. I agree with it from my experience. I total up each year how much I've spent for medical care in the past year when I do taxes and I'm always boggled at how much I've had to spend. I'd really hate to be without insurance, but even with it, it can still be a lot of money.

(Edited to assign appropriate icon.)

Edited at 2010-03-10 07:00 pm (UTC)
thndrstd
Mar. 10th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
It's a horrible situation and anyone with major health problems is just screwed in this country. Thanks for your comment.
(Deleted comment)
thndrstd
Mar. 11th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
LOL. I'm glad you can see light. Sometimes I don't feel like I do.

There's a dirty and self-effacing joke there, too, but I won't tell it. :P
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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