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June 4, 2009
2:16 PM

CONTACT: Public Citizen

Phone: 202-588-1000

Two-Thirds of Bankruptcies Are Medically Related; National Health Insurance Needed Now

Statement of Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Director, Health Research Group at Public Citizen

WASHINGTON - June 4 - A nationwide study showing that 62 percent of bankruptcies in 2007 were related to medical bills or illness underscores the need for a single-payer health care system.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School and Ohio State University (David Himmelstein, Steffie Woolhandler, Elizabeth Warren and Deborah Thorne) found the high bankruptcy rate even though more than three-quarters (78 percent) of the people having medical bankruptcies had health insurance - mainly private insurance - at the start of their illness. It is astounding that medically related bankruptcies increased by half from 2001 to 2007 - well before the current economic crisis.

The rising number of medical bankruptcies among the insured tells us that the patchwork, inadequate coverage offered by private health insurance is bad for our economic health. We urgently need a single-payer system that covers everyone, regardless of employment or ability to pay. Expanding private insurance and calling it health reform will fail to prevent financial catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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