BANKRUPTCY: Medical Bills Account for Many Filings
About half of the more than one million Americans who filed for bankruptcy protection last year did so partly because of their medical bills or other financial consequences of illness or injury, according to a new study to be published in next month's Norton's Bankruptcy Adviser. The Washington Post reports that researchers studied bankruptcy filers in eight judicial circuits nationwide, representing about 18% of all filers. According to the study, 326,441 bankruptcies last year were related to a filer or family member's illness or injury and another 267,575 filers "had substantial medical bills though they would list other reasons ... for their bankruptcies." Women, families headed by women and the elderly are most impacted. But lack of insurance was "a key factor in only a minority of the filings." Study researcher and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren noted that the findings indicate that "under-insurance is a far bigger problem for middle-class families." She said that illness combined with heavy consumer debts "prompts people to seek bankruptcy protection," explaining, "The difference between what we saw 40 years ago and what we see today is 40 years ago when families were hit by a modest medical problem they still had flexibility in their budget. Their future income was unencumbered. Today families are carrying so much more consumer debt that even a modest medical bill can put them over the edge financially and they end up in collapse" (Crenshaw, 4/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.