Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Today's WSJ front-page piece:

"...Many of today's bankrupt baby boomers simply weren't as frugal as their Depression-era parents. But the increase in middle-age people filing for bankruptcy also is attributed to soaring medical costs, an unstable job market and years of aggressive credit-card marketing....

...Personal-bankruptcy lawyers across the country say they've witnessed a tidal shift in their practices, seeing older clients with longer work histories. "These people didn't take their credit cards to Atlantic City," says Gabriel Del Virginia, a New York bankruptcy attorney. "It's largely because people lost their jobs or had a catastrophic illness."

Until last year, Charlene Freeman, a 48-year-old who lives in the Boston area, worked at home, doing technical writing on a contract basis. As the family's primary breadwinner, she says she was earning $150,000 a year, had a perfect credit record and a spacious home with a pool. Her husband is an independent computer technician.

Then, her long-controlled kidney disease turned into kidney failure, halting her income while her medical costs soared. Although she paid $725 a month to insure herself, her husband and child, Ms. Freedman wasn't insured for the numerous drugs prescribed to her. Those costs at one point rose to $1,200 a month. The drug costs are on top of her usual $4,000-a-month outlay for mortgage, groceries, utilities and other expenses.

Although Ms. Freeman has disability insurance, it wouldn't cover anything related to kidney problems because it was a pre-existing condition.

To pay the bills while she battled her illness, Ms. Freeman drained the couple's retirement savings, her home-equity line, and tapped her young son's savings accounts. She used 10 credit cards. What she didn't realize, she says, is that her husband was using checks sent to them by credit-card companies. These checks, sent unsolicited, have no grace period; interest begins to accumulate on them as soon as they hit the cardholder's account.

In May, when her husband went out of town for a job, Ms. Freeman asked for the checkbook so she could pay the monthly expenses. Shocked at the size of their credit-card bills, Ms. Freeman decided to look up the couple's accounts online and add up exactly how much they owed. As her mouse clicked through the pages, Ms. Freeman says her eyes filled with tears. The couple had accumulated $115,000 in debt. "I sat there and said 'I'm s-d,' " she says. She plans to file for bankruptcy in the fall. "It's killing me to file," she says. "But there's no way I can make enough to pay it off."

Her husband, Jim, says he didn't tell his wife he was using the credit-card checks because he didn't want to upset her while she was ill. "I was always banking on that next big job to come in to pay for it, but it never came," he says."

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarggh. You know, I never write political rants, but I gotta let loose:

I am on vacation in Cairo. Why is it that a Cairene at the lowest end of the income scale can get decent affordable healthcare - but an American can't? Let's not make any economic arguments - because comparing the American economy to the Egyptian economy is only going to make you look stupid.

Oh yeah. Because the HMO's have succesfully railroaded the creation of any kind of healthcare system (but their own) by lining the pockets of the people we elect.

Guess we better not elect them then. Oh wait - then who's gonna make us feel safe after terror alert code orange?!

Jesus, this Orwellian sh*#@t is really...Orwellian.

You know, you should subscribe to the J if you don't already.

-- umair // 9:08 AM //

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