Medicaid Contributes To Medical Bankruptcy

The Wall Street Journal ran a disturbing story about the increasing number of people unable to pay medical bills. Some are even having to sell homes in a bad market to raise cash. Of course, the health care and political elites always interpret such harrowing tales as signals to increase government control over health care.

But a discerning reader can see that government has contributed to the problems these people suffer. Let’s look first at Bowen Richards, a 52-year old, self-employed electrician in Florida who lost his health insurance when he divorced. He had been insured through his wife’s employer-based health plan. Because of diabetes, he was unable to buy individual health insurance after the divorce.

Once again, we see the “benefit” of employer-based health care turn into a liability pretty quickly. I don’t hold the government responsible for his divorce, but if the government had allowed his wife’s employer to give pre-tax dollars to the family to buy their own health insurance, with guaranteed renewable premiums, he would have had a better chance of continuing his coverage without underwriting. (See my analysis of Senator McCain’s presidential campaign proposal for a lengthier explanation of the benefits of this critical tax reform.)

For those who think that Medicaid is an important thread in the fabric of our social safety net: Think again! It’s not only a rip-off for taxpayers and providers (such as doctors and hospitals); but it also helps drive patients into bankruptcy!

Take Susan Harris, 46, uninsured and diagnosed with cancer, who spent down her 401(k) in order to get poor enough to qualify for Medicaid! “Medical bankruptcy” is not as big a part of our health care crisis as advertised. It’s tangled up with Americans’ general debt overload. But taxing people to fund an out-of-control program that can’t even do anyone any good until they’ve spent all their savings creates a cruel “poverty trap”.

Once again, a refundable tax credit that allows people to keep the private coverage of their choice is a far better solution.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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