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    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    Questionable Choices: Why is it that whenever the New York Times runs a story about how tough things are for the middle class, there's some element of it that just undermines the whole argument? Last year, during the presidential campaign, there was a family whose strongest lament turned out to be that they could not afford to pay their teenage daughter's admission fee to a local Halloween haunted house - twice. They could afford one ticket, but not a much-coveted second one. Today, it's the woes of the insured:

    The monthly infusion, which has become a regular part of his childhood along with soccer practice and family camping trips, costs $54,000 a year, of which the Dorsetts will pay more than $5,000.

    For the Dorsetts, this is what the end looked like, according to the family's bankruptcy filing: They had $1,431 in their checking and savings accounts; they owed $29,146 on various credit cards; and after refinancing their house to pay down their credit cards, they could no longer afford the payments on their house or car.

    ....Mr. Dorsett, who works on commercial heating and air conditioning systems, sometimes stitching together 90-hour weeks, earns $68,000 a year. It is more money than his father ever made, but not enough to cover the bills, especially with the monthly infusions starting.

    "We don't live a frivolous life, but I need to make my kids' life normal," she said. "They still need bikes. My husband says, 'Kids in the third world don't have those things.' I say, 'We don't live in a third world country.'


    Sounds like the real problem here might be the credit cards.

    I get one or two notices of bankruptcy a year concerning my patients. They always list the debt that is to be forgiven along with the creditors, and it's ovewhelmingly credit card debt - the major cards and the local retailers that have their own credit cards. That's probably true for the general population as well - which is why the Times couldn't find a better example of people with health insurance going broke because of medical expenses alone.

    UPDATE: A reader does the math:

    The $5,000 a year quoted comes out to: $416.67 a month, $13.69 a day, 7% of the household's income. One mistake people do make in managing their financial affairs is that they fail to readjust their living standards downward to account for unexpected regular expenses (e.g., sell the house and car and downgrade).

    Or are we so rich now that the idea is that not only should an illness not bankrupt but that you shouldn't have to skip trips to the mall?
     

    posted by Sydney on 10/23/2005 12:14:00 PM 2 comments

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