“A new Harvard study of bankruptcy cases shows . . . [m]edical bills and
illnesses are a major cause of roughly half ofthis country’s personal
bankruptcies, according to the study published today on the Web site of the
journal Health Affairs.
Touted as the first in-depth analysis of medical causes of bankruptcy, the
study looked at 1,771 court records of people who filed for bankruptcy in
2001 in five federal districts, including one in Illinois. More than half
of those bankruptcy filers were interviewed in detail about their finances
and health. The researchers determined that 46.2 percent to 54.5 percent of
the nearly 1.5 million personal bankruptcy filings in 2001 could be chalked
up, in large part, to medical problems.
“Unless you’re Bill Gates, you’re just one serious illness away from
bankruptcy,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, lead author of the study and
associate professor of medicine at Harvard. “Most of the medically bankrupt
were average Americans who happened to get sick. Health insurance offered
. . .
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.