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Medical bills are seen on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 in Estero, Fla. (Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Hospital CEO Admits For-Profit Healthcare Industry Is 'Number One Cause of Personal Bankruptcy'

"We need a revolution. Literally, it's a life or death matter."

Julia Conley

The CEO of a Utah-based hospital system admitted Tuesday at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco that the U.S. healthcare industry bears much blame for American families' financial struggles.

While assuring investors at the conference that his company, Intermountain Healthcare, remains focused on "focused on growing their revenue," CEO Marc Harrison said flatly that the for-profit healthcare industry is to blame for most personal bankruptcies.

"The number one cause of personal bankruptcy is our industry," said Harrison.

The report caught the attention of actor Rob Delaney, a vocal proponent of the government-run National Health Service in the U.K. and of Sen. Bernie Sanders's Medicare for All plan.

Delaney described Harrison's comments—first reported by Axios's Bob Herman—as a "nightmare" and urged critics of the profit-driven hospital, medical supply, pharmaceutical, and health insurance industries to support Sanders's presidential campaign.  

Harrison's comments suggest the healthcare sector is well aware that premiums, copays, deductibles, surprise medical bills that show up after hospital visits with charges for "out-of-network" physicians, and other medical costs are responsible for about two-thirds of personal bankruptcies, which hit many Americans who have health insurance.

According to a study published last year in the American Journal of Public Health, the number of personal bankruptcies driven by medical costs actually increased slightly after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented.

On Wednesday, Axios reported on the latest Gallup survey regarding household medical expenses, which showed the number of Americans delaying medical care to avoid costs began to skyrocket in 2018 after briefly dipping in 2014, when the ACA's biggest reforms became law.

Investors at the J.P. Morgan conference this week also heard from Intermountain CFO Bert Zimmerli, who said that while lowering costs has caused the company to lose about $100 million in the last two years out of its $9 billion annual revenue, "collections from patients" still "have really been strong."

The focus on profit margins by healthcare corporations—even non-profit systems like Intermountain—makes the fight for a national health program like those in every other industrialized country "a life or death matter," wrote Dr. Victoria Dooley, a Sanders surrogate and family medicine physician.

"We need a revolution," tweeted Dooley.

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WHO, South Africa Urge Nations to Lift 'Naive' Omicron Travel Bans

"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic."

Brett Wilkins ·

EU Joins Rights Group in Condemning Israel's 'Day of Destruction' of Palestinian Homes

"Demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace."

Brett Wilkins ·

GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·

Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

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