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The Effects of Health on Wealth: New Study Reveals Individuals Without Health Insurance at Risk for 'Financial Catastrophe'
Date:10/15/2009

CHICAGO, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans without health insurance are one major illness away from financial catastrophe, according to a new study. New research by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University suggests that uninsured individuals nearing retirement age who experience a major health concern, such as heart disease, cancer or a stroke, can lose up to half of their household assets in order to pay their medical expenses.

The study, titled "Does Major Illness Cause Financial Catastrophe?", will be published in an upcoming issue of Health Services Research Journal. The research was conducted by professors David Dranove and Andrew Sfekas at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Keziah Cook, PhD candidate in economics at Northwestern University.

Dranove and his co-authors discovered a significant finding among the uninsured, ages 51 to 64, who experienced a major illness. The assets of uninsured households declined between 30 and 50 percent--in total, a median loss of 46 percent. In contrast, when matched with uninsured households with similar backgrounds, those with private health insurance did not experience a financial loss.

"Lack of insurance is at the heart of the healthcare debate with 4.2 million uninsured Americans over 55. Our research provides compelling evidence of the financial damage for these families," said Dranove, the Walter J. McNerney Professor of Health Industry Management at the Kellogg School and director of the Center for Health Industry Market Economics. "Despite a person's income, the uninsured face the risk of losing their retirement savings."

Prior research has explored the impact of medical bankruptcy on the loss of household assets, but this new research is the first study to isolate health insurance and its direct impact on personal finances among individuals. The researchers focused on households with ba
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SOURCE Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University
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