Health Care Reform and Bankruptcy

Harvard and Ohio University researchers published a study about the relation between bankruptcy filings and the cost of health care last year. The statistics are alarming. 62% of all bankruptcy filings were due to crushing health care debt. Even more shocking, “In 2007, before the current economic downturn, an American family filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of illness every 90 seconds; three-quarters of them were insured," the study said. Many of these people used their homes to pay their medical bills before filing for bankruptcy.

The authors relied on a national sample of 2,314 U.S. Bankruptcy Court records filed in 2007 and interviews with 1,032 of those who filed for bankruptcy protection.

The key findings:

• 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies have a medical cause.

• Most medical debtors had health insurance, were well-educated and were middle-class.

• Insolvency attributable to medical problems rose by 50 percent between 2001 and 2007.

Anyone who is a citizen of this country should be ashamed of these numbers. The richest country in the world is failing its people. And in spite of this and other evidence that health care in this country is broke, Congress dithers. Medical costs continue to skyrocket with no end in sight. This will force more and more people into bankruptcy.

Another consequence of this crisis is that increasing health care costs will negatively affect Medicare. The government will not be able to pay senior’s medical bills. The outcome for this will be: the elimination of government senior health care insurance, or the bankruptcy of the government of the United States, or much higher Medicare taxes for working Americans, who are already struggling to get health care and insurance for health care, or some combination of the above.

The time to get health care reform legislation is long over due. The private sector is obviously failing to correct this mess. The profit motive negates desires to help people. Compassion has never been part of capitalism (unless someone can figure out a way to make a buck out of it). Congress refuses to consider a very obvious part of the solution: anyone who offers health care insurance must be a non-profit organization. Companies should not be allowed to profit off the misery of others. It is unethical and it is un-Christian. There also needs to be reforms about physician best practices and prescription drug costs. Let’s get this done!


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