Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Too Far To Reach

Something that a colleague said this week reminded me what a different reality that some of us live in.

It was my first time to meet with a particular committee. I told them I was an economist, so they asked me what caused the current mess. After they assured me that they really did want to hear two minutes of economics stuff I told them the story about the government forcing financial insitutions to make loans to people who could not afford to pay, then getting Fannie and Freddie to securitize those loans.

One member of the committee said, "The rest of the story is that most of those poor people are poor because they could not afford to pay their medical bills."

I have lived in cities with high poverty rates. My friends who lived on "the wrong side of the tracks" were not confused about what caused the persistent problem in their neighborhoods. The government gives checks and other benefits to people who do not work.

After the meeting I looked up poverty rates, bankruptcy rates, and how often medical bills are cited as the cause of bankruptcy (1/2 the time!). But those bankruptcy numbers do not make up a significant portion of the poverty numbers, as I had suspected. Consider inner city poverty--housing projects. Lots of medical bankruptcies? Laughable.

But, at the time my colleague said it, I knew that he was too far to reach. So I smiled and nodded.

1 comment:

joel said...

Your colleague claims that medical bills cause poverty. I say that poverty causes an inability to pay medical bills.