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Illness, medical bills linked to nearly two-thirds of bankruptcies
Date:6/3/2009

nd Ohio University, is the first nationwide study on medical causes of bankruptcy. The researchers surveyed a random sample of 2,314 bankruptcy filers during early 2007 and examined their bankruptcy court records. In addition, they conducted extensive telephone interviews with 1,032 of these bankruptcy filers.

Their 2001 study, which was published in 2005, surveyed debtors in only five states. In the current study, findings for those five states closely mirrored the national trends.

Subsequent to the 2001 study, Congress made it harder to file for bankruptcy, causing a sharp drop in filings. However, personal bankruptcy filings have soared as the economy has soured and are now back to the 2001 level of about 1.5 million annually.

Dr. David Himmelstein, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, commented: "Our findings are frightening. Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection. Most of us have policies with so many loopholes, co-payments and deductibles that illness can put you in the poorhouse. And even the best job-based health insurance often vanishes when prolonged illness causes job loss precisely when families need it most. Private health insurance is a defective product, akin to an umbrella that melts in the rain."

"For many families, bankruptcy is a deeply shameful experience," noted Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard and a study co-author. Professor Warren, a leading expert on personal bankruptcy, went on: "People arrive at the bankruptcy courts exhausted financially, physically and emotionally. For most, bankruptcy is a last choice to deal with unmanageable circumstances."

According to study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard and primary care physician in Cambridge, Mass.: "We need
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Contact: Mark Almberg
mark@pnhp.org
312-782-6006
Physicians for a National Health Program
Source:Eurekalert

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