How We All Got Stuck Paying the Medical Bills of the Woman Who Sued to Kill Obamacare

Wendell Potter: Analyst at MSNBC  and the Center for Public Integrity Posted: 03/12/2012 7:26 am

If I were trying to persuade the Supreme Court later this month that Obamacare should not be declared unconstitutional, I would tell the story of the woman who was the original named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by the National Federation of Independent Business, one of the fiercest critics of the health care reform law.

The NFIB thought it had found the perfect person when one of its members, Mary Brown, a 56-year-old owner of an automobile repair shop in Panama City, Florida, volunteered to lend her name to the lawsuit.

Brown was outspoken in her belief that Congress had gone beyond what the U.S. Constitution allows when it included in the reform law a requirement that, beginning in 2014, most Americans will have to obtain health insurance or pay a fine to the IRS. She said she was uninsured and was that way by choice.

“She firmly believes that no one should have the right to tell her she has to use her own money to pay for health insurance,” Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB legal center, said when the NFIB filed its lawsuit in 2010.

She turned out not to be such a perfect choice after all.

Last year Brown shuttered her business and filed for personal bankruptcy. Among her debts: nearly $4,500 in medical bills. More than $2,000 of that was owed to the Bay Medical Center in Panama City. The rest was to doctors in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

The NFIB had to scramble to find another small business owner to replace Brown’s name at the top of the lawsuit. It settled on Kaj Ahlburg, a retired New York investment banker who now lives in Port Angeles, Washington.

Here’s why I would make sure that Brown’s unfortunate turn of events was b