Exhibit A for the defendent is… the plaintiff.

It’s March Madness, and not just in college basketball, but on health reform.

We’ve been busy planning for some major events: the 2nd anniversary of the Affordable Care Act on March 23rd, and the Supreme Court arguments the week after.

Those legal challenges, as weak as they were, just got a bit weaker.

The LA Times reports on a plaintiff challenging the individual mandate and the Affordable Care Act… who just went bankrupt because of a medical bill.

We take no pleasure in the unfortunate situation of Mary Brown, the 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop, who is the lead plaintiff challenging the federal health law, as someone who doesn’t have health insurance–and opposed the reform.

But the Affordable Care Act would have helped her… and the rest of us, as well:

“…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.”

“The central issue before the Supreme Court is whether the government can require people to buy health insurance. Under the law, those who fail to buy insurance after 2014 could face a fine of up to $700…”

“Obama administration lawyers argue that the requirement is justified because everyone, sooner or later, needs healthcare. Those who fail to have insurance are at high risk of running up bills they cannot pay, sticking the rest of society with the cost, they argue. Brown’s situation, they say, is a perfect example of exactly that kind of “uncompensated care that will ultimately be paid by others.”

“This is so ironic,” Jane Perkins, a health law expert in North Carolina, said of Brown’s situation. “It just shows that all Americans inevitably have a need for healthcare. Somebody has paid for her healthcare costs. And she is now among the 62% whose personal bankruptcy was attributable in part to medical bills.”

Beyond the constitutional questions, it seems strange to attack the individual mandate to get coverage on the grounds of “freedom”–given how expensive health care can be, and how large bankruptcy looms, everybody needs and wants coverage. The real issue is whether the law provides the help for people to meet the mandate. But its that help that the leading ACA opponents really object to.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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