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Study - Medical Bills Lead To 60 Percent Of Bankruptcies

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, June 08, 2009 11:53 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Insurance Industry, Bankruptcy, Medical Debt, Medical Care, Health Care System, Health Reform

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IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockphoto / medical solutions / author: gmutlu

Many Americans are facing financial ruins due to high medical bills. A new study by researchers at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University, finds more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are the result of medical bills.

Moreover, 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but were still overwhelmed by medical debt, according to the study published in The Journal of American Medicine.

“Unless you’re Warren Buffett, your family is one serious illness away from bankruptcy,” Harvard’s Dr. David Himmelstein, an advocate for single-payer health insurance program in the United States, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers used 2007 data from 2,300 bankruptcies. Bankruptcies were designated “medical” based on debtors’ stated reasons for filing – income loss due to illness and the magnitude of their medical debts.

The study found that from 2001 to 2007, the number of bankruptcies caused by medical bills increased by 50 percent. Insured Americans bankrupted by health problems had about $17,749 in medical bills; while uninsured Americans had an estimated average of $26,971 in bills. And those who had health insurance but lost it in the course of their illness reported medical bills in excess of $22,568.

The New York Times writes, the costliest medical conditions that left patients with the highest out-of-pocket expenses were ranked as follows:

Neurological: $34,167
Diabetes: $26,971
Injuries: 25,096
Stroke: $23,380
Mental illnesses: $23,178
Heart disease: $21,955

“The U.S. health care financing system is broken, and not only for the poor and uninsured,” the study authors wrote. “Middle-class American families frequently collapse under the strain of a health care system that treats physical wounds, but often inflicts fiscal ones.” #


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