It's Not the Debt Collecting That's the Problem

Many of the Zeller and Volk supporters posting in the comments point out that Tom Reed is a debt collecting attorney. Well, my brother happens to be an attorney who makes part of his money from collecting debts (in another state). He's an honorable family man, just like Reed, but at least he acknowledges the main reason people go into debt and can't get out -- medical bills.

And he also realizes one of the reasons that people have a hard time with medical bills is that the deck is stacked against the self-paying individual. If you or one of your family members ever happens to go to the hospital, take a hard look at the bill. If they're insured, the insurance company has cut deals with the hospital for a discount, and it's nothing minor. For example, I know someone who had to have multiple high-res MRI scans of the brain. There's only one machine in Rochester that can do them, and the price for the uninsured person is around $5,000. For someone with insurance, the price is about $1,600, because Excellus has negotiated a discount with the University of Rochester.

Let's imagine that you're a young person who just paid your way through college. You're working a part-time job because the economy is bad, and you can't afford insurance. If you have an unexplained seizure, which isn't that uncommon, you really have no choice. You pay $3,400 more than someone who's insured for a high-res MRI. Then, you either go into bankruptcy, at worst, or get a call from Tom Reed, at best.

According to my brother, when Reed finally comes to collect this bill, he'll probably knock off a few thousand bucks and cut a deal. Our college kid will probably end up paying a bit more than what the insurance company did, but he'll have to ruin his credit rating to do it.

Under evil, nefarious, socialistic Obamacare, which Tom Reed's party has pledged to repeal, our new graduate would get a subsidy to help him pay for insurance, and his insurance would pay for his procedure. If the seizure was caused by a chronic illness, our new graduate could not be denied insurance for the rest of his life. These are the awful things Democrats like Zeller want.

Like Tom Reed, my brother and I both make plenty of money and can afford good insurance. Unlike Reed, my brother and I both support Democrats because we believe that this country owes the working poor a chance to get ahead in life without facing life-destroying medical bills. There's a lot of rhetoric about personal responsibility being thrown around when we talk about healthcare reform. The reality is that uninsured people who will benefit from healthcare reform are generally working poor. I have a hard time being very judgmental about people who are poor and holding down a job.

So, don't knock Tom Reed for being a debt collector. Knock him for not wanting to give people who work but can't afford insurance an opportunity for the same coverage that he can afford.


The 'most bankruptcies caused by medical bills' talking point is very problematic. Here's the first rebuttal I could find offhand:

It's not a talking point, it's the result of a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Now, Megan McArdle can speculate all she wants about the methodology of the study, but even if she's right that it somehow overstates the number of BKs caused by medical bills (and I'm not going to grant that, because she often makes terrrible mistakes), you surely can't be arguing that medical bills aren't a significant cause of bankruptcy and bad credit.

Here's a summary of the study with a link to the original paper:

This is a great post. So if Reed and the other elephants are successful in repealing Obama care then Reed's firm continues to grow. It actually sounds like he has more of a vested interest in repealing the health care bill than simply fighting against so-called socialism. I would probably be a Democrat if it weren't for their extreme positions on life issues and their staunch support of groups like Planned Parenthood. I very much agree in social responsibility and giving the working man a chance. I just can't support politicians who won't protect the youngest and most defenseless of our neighbors.

I know our society has a place for and unfortunately needs debt collectors, but its make great fodder in a political race for his opponents.

Very well done sir.

"Let's imagine that you're a young person who just paid your way through college. You're working a part-time job because the economy is bad, and you can't afford insurance."

Funny thing - my son graduated from Fredonia in May. He only has a part time job too and is living at home - my daughter and my granddaughter are living with us too. My daughter is not presently working.

They both can take part in this: or this and if you make too much money for one of them you can go here:

I personally know people who take advantage of all three services listed above - I also personally know people who work as little as they can because they are in low income housing and get free insurance.

I think we need to debate as to how much we can give, without killing someone's desire to work.

The Affordable Care Act is very similar to programs like Healthy New York. Healthy New York is government-subsidized medical insurance, and the eligibilty is based on income. The subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act are based on income, too. The difference is that the person purchasing the insurance can choose from a number of plans.

I'm not going to get into a long discussion of why people stay on public assistance vs. working. I'm sure there are a number of people who could hold down a job who stay on public assistance. That's a tough problem. But I'll make one point: every government medical insurance program (Medicaid, Healthy New York, etc) has a cut-off that is a disincentive to harder work. Let's take Healthy New York as an example. The income cutoff is $10,830 for an individual. That's less than a full-time minimum wage job (which pays $15K a year). If an individual wants to buy a decent health insurance plan, it's at least $400/month. That's almost the entire difference between full-time minimum wage employment and part-time employment. And, it's even harder than that. That rate I quoted is from the Rochester Business Alliance (Chamber of Commerce) which expects payment in advance for insurance plus $180 membership fee. So, to transition from part-time to full-time minimum wage employment, our working poor person has to come up with a prepayment of almost $1,500.

Here's where I got the numbers for health insurance:

Also, some minimum wage employers provide "mini med" policies. The policy limits on those policies are awful -- $2,000 - $10,000. That helps, certainly, but it's nothing like the insurance offered by the Affordable Care Act.

People who don't want to work are always around. Let's focus on giving people who want to work the best chance to support themselves and their families.

Oh, lordy. You *know* people who are gaming the system and staying out of work? Willfully taking low-income housing *and* free insurance that our hard-earned tax dollars paid for? And you haven't reported them? Doesn't sound like personal responsibility to me. What would Ayn Rand or Thomas Jefferson think of you letting such injustice slide? Where is your sense civic duty?

Or are you just full of shit on this one?

Rottenchester, you did a great job, man. Great analysis.

I disagree, I think it is very pertinent to criticize Tom Reed for being a medical debt collector. Without getting bogged down in the specifics of how we cut costs (public option, single payer, selling across state lines, etc), what possible incentive would Tom Reed have to support real health care reform. This is a man who became a millionaire exploiting the spike in health care costs, and cheap, universal health care would put him out of business. That's just the facts. If an uninsured person gets cancer, and receives a chemotherapy bill for $100,000, Tom Reed profits.
If health insurance is reformed, now that person has a much much cheaper co-pay that bill doesn't end up in collections. That's why it's an issue because his own profit motivations will prevent him from taking care of the people of this district.

Hear hear Really! Thats exactly what I need to know. Thank you

Actually, if Reed is elected, I believe he can no longer operate his law practice, so if was in this for profit, the smartest thing would have been for him not to run at all.

I remember when Amo was elected and he had to officially end any involvement with Corning Inc.

well, if it's anything like the mineral rights he owned for the Marcellus Shale, or the Masonic Temple he took stimulus funds for after voting against Corning receiving them he'll probably either just give the business to his brother, or deed it to the daughter of one his biggest (non-corporate) contributors

Anon- you are a deeply deceived individual. Reed's law practice will continue to run whether he is there or not. Furthermore, you are making a presumption that if there are laws or regulations that prevent a rep from maintaining their business that someone would bring suit against Reed to enforce said law or regulation. His one-term will be over before such a lawsuit even gained teeth. At this point it would become moot and the plaintiff would have to prove some kind of damages directly caused by the fact that Reed was in congress while simultaneously allowing the firm to remain in business during Reed's term.

You are plain wrong. Please insert quarter and try again.

Let me see if I have this right. Any of us who live in the 29th Congressional District should look away from the myriad of issues in this race and focus on health care and not the real issues of the race...politics of Washington and how it came to be that Zeller is running. How does a Virginia resident with no political profile or history get selected over Democrats that are elected officials from all over the district? The anwer is that he was sent here to run! Rahm Emmanuel had a history of choosing former members of the armed services as candidates, including Eric Massa. In other words, this candidate is a selected candidate of Washington Democrat leadership...not the people of the 29th!

I, for one, have had enough of Nancy Pelosi and the two years of Democrats overwhelming reason with programs that do not work. In the House of Representatives...I want someone who REPRESENTS our interests, not Nancy Pelosi's. I do not believe that Tom Reed is the perfect answer...but at least I know who he is, where he came from, and what he believes in. I can never support a carpet bagger, stealth candidate like Matt Zeller!

Yes, the real issue in the race is how a guy who grew up in Rochester came back to town to run for Congress, not how he would vote if he were elected. In other words, in your world, the real issue isn't an issue.

While my vote will go to Reed, I have nothing but respect for Zeller - he should be applauded for his effort.

Well done, Rottenchester.

I posted this in the most recent thread because I'm not sure how active this thread will be, but it really belongs here.

For those of you who seem to think being a debt collector shouldn't raise any red flags in a run for political office, I urge you to read this article:

Then, when you're done, contemplate Tom Reed receiving $160,000 from Wall St. hedge fund managers, and consider whether those donations are just a coincidence, or if being a debt collector really is the problem.

I am learning so much from all of you. Thank you. Thank you for sending information along to us who may not be clear about these things.