Illness and Medical Bills Cause Half of All Bankruptcies -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

The research, carried out jointly by researchers at Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School is the first in-depth study of medical causes of bankruptcy.

According to the study, families with children were especially hard hit-about 700,000 children lived in families that declared bankruptcy in the aftermath of serious medical problems. Another 600,000 spouses, elderly parents and other dependents brought the total number of people directly affected by medical bankruptcies to more than two million annually.

Surprisingly, most of those bankrupted by medical problems had health insurance. More than three-quarters were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness. Among those with private insurance, however, one-third had lost coverage at least temporarily by the time they filed for bankruptcy. Often illness led to job loss, and with it the loss of health insurance.

Out-of-pocket medical costs for co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services, averaged $13,460 for those with private insurance at the onset of their illness, versus $10,893 for the uninsured. The highest costs - averaging $18,005 - were incurred by those who initially had private coverage but lost it in the course of their illness. In many cases, high medical bills coincided with a loss of income as illness forced breadwinners to lose time from work.

According to study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard University and primary care physician in Cambridge, Massachusetts: "We need to rethink health reform. Covering the uninsured isn't enough. We must also upgrade and guarantee continuous coverage for those who have insurance.”; Source: Harvard Medical School