Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Speaking of the State of the Union....

I am taking bets that the President will not discuss the following issue in his SOU speech tonight. If he does, I will drink to his health and political longevity. I'm thinking I can keep the single malt in the bottle...

This article disturbed me so much because I know first-hand how true it is. Bankruptcy has the connotation of "credit card overspending," "living beyond your means," etc. My knowledge of it is exactly the point in this article. Someone gets sick, insurance doesn't cover everything, and all of a sudden your mortgage money must become the medical bill money or else doctors stop having available appointments and labs won't run your tests. You'd think that creditors would have a heart when dealing with sick people, wouldn't you? Yeah, you'd think wrong. It is a nightmare, pure and simple.

But hey, as long as gays can't get married, this country is on the right track....

Feb 2, 2005 — By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by soaring medical bills and most people sent into debt by illness are middle-class workers with health insurance, researchers said on Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, estimated that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans every year, if both debtors and their dependents, including about 700,000 children, are counted.

"Our study is frightening. Unless you're Bill Gates you're just one serious illness away from bankruptcy," said Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the study.

"Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick. Health insurance offered little protection."

The researchers got the permission of bankruptcy judges in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas to survey 931 people who filed for bankruptcy.

"About half cited medical causes, which indicates that 1.9 to 2.2 million Americans (filers plus dependents) experienced medical bankruptcy," they wrote.

"Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness."

The average bankrupt person surveyed had spent $13,460 on co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services if they had private insurance. People with no insurance spent an average of $10,893 for such out-of-pocket expenses.

"Even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick," the researchers wrote.

Bankruptcy specialists said the numbers seemed sound.

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