Navigation Links
Massachusetts reform hasn't stopped medical bankruptcies: Harvard study
Date:3/7/2011

The percentage of personal bankruptcies linked to medical bills or illness changed little, and the absolute number actually increased in Massachusetts after the implementation of its landmark 2006 law requiring people to buy health insurance, a Harvard study says.

The new study, which appears in today's American Journal of Medicine, found that between early 2007 and mid-2009, the share of all Massachusetts bankruptcies with a medical cause went from 59.3 percent to 52.9 percent, a non-significant decrease of 6.4 percentage points. Because there was a sharp rise in total bankruptcies during that period, the actual number of medical bankruptcy filings in the state rose from 7,504 in 2007 to 10,093 in 2009.

The findings have national implications because the Obama administration's health law is largely patterned after the Massachusetts plan, including its individual mandate. One of the administration's arguments in support of the new federal law was that it would significantly reduce medical bankruptcies nationwide. The findings in Massachusetts cast doubt on that claim.

Moreover, the president's recent proposal to let states opt out of the national health reform threatens to further weaken the inadequate standards for coverage that were included in the 2010 reform law. The result may well be the growth of skimpier plans nationwide, leading to even higher rates of medical bankruptcy than in Massachusetts.

To explain why medical bankruptcies persist in Massachusetts, the authors of the new study write: "Health costs in the state have risen sharply since reform was enacted. Even before the changes in health care laws, most medical bankruptcies in Massachusetts as in other states afflicted middle-class families with health insurance. High premium costs and gaps in coverage co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services often left insured families liable for substantial out-of-pocket costs. None of that changed. For example, under Massachusetts' reform, the least expensive individual coverage available to a 56-year-old Bostonian carries a premium of $5,616, a deductible of $2,000, and covers only 80 percent of the next $15,000 in costs for covered services."

The study's lead author, Dr. David Himmelstein, said, "Massachusetts' health reform, like the national law modeled after it, takes many of the uninsured and makes them underinsured, typically giving them a skimpy, defective private policy that's like an umbrella that melts in the rain: the protection's not there when you need it."

In the case of Massachusetts, "while we can't completely rule out the possibility that the reform reduced medical bankruptcies, any reduction is certainly small," he said. Himmelstein conducted the study as associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; he currently is professor of public health at City University of New York.

In 2007, the last year for which national estimates are available, medical issues contributed to 62.1 percent of bankruptcies nationally, according to a 2009 study by the same group of researchers. That study, which was frequently cited by the president and congressional reform advocates, also found that 77.9 percent of those bankrupted were insured at the start of their illness, including 60.3 percent who had private coverage.

The authors note that Massachusetts has historically had fewer medical bankruptcies than the rest of the nation, presumably reflecting, among other things, the state's more robust social safety net, including public hospitals and a system of free medical care for the poor that predated the recent reform. Massachusetts' 51 percent increase in total bankruptcies between 2007 and 2009 was slower than the increase in the majority of other federal jurisdictions.

The state's health law was passed in 2006 and was fully implemented by early 2008. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of state residents who were uninsured fell by 58 percent between 2006 and 2009, from 10.4 percent to 4.4 percent, and remains the lowest rate of any state.

Because bankruptcies lag many months behind a financial shock, the early 2007 and mid-2009 surveys provide a good "before and after" look at the effects of the health reform, the researchers said.

Study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of public health at City University of New York who was professor of medicine at Harvard when the research was conducted, said, "American families need the kind of comprehensive coverage that protects people in nations with single-payer national health insurance, such as Canada." Although recent data are lacking, an older study found few medical bankruptcies in Canada, she said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Mark Almberg
mark@pnhp.org
312-782-6006
Physicians for a National Health Program
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Massachusetts General Hospital leading nationwide, comparative study of common bipolar medications
2. Massachusetts physician groups improving patient experience, study finds
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology IDs new cancer drug target
4. Doctors hard to find for patients in Massachusetts first for-profit health plan
5. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Northeast Health Systems Physician Hospital Organization Sign Alternative Quality Contract
6. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Demonstrates Community Commitment with Fifth William C. Van Faasen Community Service Sabbatical
7. Firefighters Walk Over 60,000 Miles in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts' Fitness Challenge
8. Massachusetts health care reform reviewed as a model for national plan
9. Miles for Hope’s Moving Towards A Cure(SM) Brain Tumor Walk in Boston Raising Funds for Brain Tumor Vaccine and Massachusetts General Hospital
10. Elements Therapeutic Massage Announces Franchise Expansion Plan for Massachusetts
11. Diabetics Twice as Likely to Have Hearing Loss; Massachusetts HearUSA Centers to Offer Free Hearing Screening and Diabetes Video in March
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/22/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... May 22, 2017 , ... Today, Our ... Washington, MO with a public ribbon cutting ceremony. Since opening over a ... an alternative to the emergency room. The new Our Urgent Care walk-in clinic ...
(Date:5/22/2017)... ... May 22, 2017 , ... WeightZone ... Wellocity to empower WeightZone Factor members to track their exercise patterns, monitor behavioral ... health education, all on their mobile phones. It also provides social networks for ...
(Date:5/21/2017)... ... May 20, 2017 , ... Pixel Film Studios presents a ... in Final Cut Pro X. The business-oriented elements and dignified animations are designed ... Corporate will deliver a professional and distinguished look to any multi-line text animation ...
(Date:5/21/2017)... , ... May 21, 2017 , ... Following the tragic ... York became the first state to require that hospitals follow a protocol to quickly ... the medical community as to whether such steps would have saved Rory or anyone ...
(Date:5/19/2017)... ... May 19, 2017 , ... When Kyle Busch graduates from ... will already appear on two major research studies that could impact the health of ... Matt Daggett, KCU alumnus and an orthopedic surgeon, alongside an international team trying to ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:5/2/2017)... 2, 2017  George Clinical, a leading full-service CRO ... and Vector Oncology, a Memphis ... announced today that George Clinical has acquired Vector ... the dual purpose of strengthening the ability of ... delivery solutions throughout the Asia-Pacific ...
(Date:5/2/2017)... , May 2, 2017  Bayer and Project Apis ... from Healthy Hives 2020, a $1 million research effort to ... by the end of 2020. The grant ... Rueppell , University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who will ... bees; Dr. Edmund Stark , Michigan ...
(Date:4/28/2017)... Holdings, Inc. ("Hill-Rom") (NYSE: HRC ) ... quarter ended March 31, 2017, and raised its ... updated guidance reflect the contribution from the Mortara ... February 14, 2017.  For the fiscal ... diluted share compared to $0.33 per diluted share ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: