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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 - 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.

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