Health care costs, especially coupled with lack of adequate insurance even for insured people, drove our nation to the brink of economic collapse.
“Unless you’re a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you’re one illness away from financial ruin in this country,” says lead author Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School, in Cambridge, Mass. “If an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy, and that’s the major finding in our study.”
Woolhandler and her colleagues surveyed a random sample of 2,314 people who filed for bankruptcy in early 2007, looked at their court records, and then interviewed more than 1,000 of them. Health.com: Expert advice on getting health insurance and affordable care for chronic pain.
They concluded that 62.1 percent of the bankruptcies were medically related because the individuals either had more than $5,000 (or 10 percent of their pretax income) in medical bills, mortgaged their home to pay for medical bills, or lost significant income due to an illness. On average, medically bankrupt families had $17,943 in out-of-pocket expenses, including $26,971 for those who lacked insurance and $17,749 who had insurance at some point.
Overall, three-quarters of the people with a medically-related bankruptcy had health insurance, they say.
“That was actually the predominant problem in patients in our study — 78 percent of them had health insurance, but many of them were bankrupted anyway because there were gaps in their coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services,” says Woolhandler. “Other people had private insurance but got so sick that they lost their job and lost their insurance.” Health.com: Where the money goes — A breast cancer donation guide.
Personal bankruptcies played a large role in the banking crisis of late last year and early 2009. Personal bankruptcies played a huge role in the collapse of mortgage securities markets, which prompted the banking crises.
“To ignore the fact that medical costs are an underlying problem of the economic meltdown we’ve experienced would be to turn a blind eye to a significant problem that we can solve,” she said [Elizabeth Edwards, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress].
Edwards was joined by Steffie Woolhandler, a co-author of the Harvard study [discussed above] who sharply criticized current reform efforts.
“Private insurance is a defective product that leaves millions of middle-class families vulnerable to financial ruin. Unfortunately, the health reform plan now under consideration in the House would do little to address this grave problem,” Woolhandler said.
Without new legislation along the lines of the Democratic proposals in Congress, our nation faces economic doom.
Phony assertions of “death panels,” phony assertions of “creeping socialism,” phony claims about bad care in England, Canada and France, are all tools that help push our nation to economic failure.
Please do not be hoaxed.