February 02, 2005

Half of bankruptcies caused by medical expenses 

posted by Paul Smith @ 8:30 AM
A new Harvard study looked at thousands of bankruptcy cases, and found that major medical bills caused half of them, usually from a single severe illness or prolonged hospital stay. And today's insurance packages weren't enough:
The study found that the majority of medical bankruptcy filers nationwide were middle-class homeowners with some college education. They usually had health insurance, too. More than 75 percent of people in medical bankruptcy were insured when they first got sick.
It's the high, one-time medical costs that drive up prices for the rest of the insured and keeps businesses from offering affordable health insurance. Government, as a large entity with major purchasing power, should absorb these top-end bills, which are probably something like 5% of the cases but 75% of the costs. (I'm making up numbers; if only there were more health-care-related bloggers …) Then private insurers and employers could affordably offer the in-patient, prescription drug, and preventative care plans.

This is a crisis for the middle-class, and one that could be fixed with progressive legislation and leadership. While the Cook County Board is working to save the old Cook County Hospital, they could make a real statement with the money they'll claim to save by using it to look at comprehensive catastrophic coverage.

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