Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Health Care Related Bankruptcy

A report on NPR about a Harvard study relays some very interesting information.
"In 2007, 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies were linked to medical bills. That's nearly 20 percent more than reported in 2001. And in most cases, those who sought bankruptcy protection had middle-class earnings; nearly 80 percent were covered by health insurance."

Making methodological adjustments, the researchers give alternatives for the 2007 proportion of bankruptcies caused by medical problems: 44% or 69%.

This highlights the problem of underinsurance. Having some of the health insurance plans currently available does not guarantee financial security during an medical problem. Making insurance mandatory will not fix these problems. Only by dictating higher minimum standards of affordable insurance can people be protected. But the insurance companies don't want that, and free-market ideologues don't want that. They would rather have rich shareholders and deregulation than a healthy and productive society that won't fall apart when some people get sick or injured.

I can't help but wonder how much of our current economic crisis could have been prevented or mitigated by a government-provided health insurance plan comparable to other industrialized nations, since it would have prevented a huge number of loan defaults. Maybe it just would have delayed or dragged out a recession of the same severity, or maybe it would have given us more time to analyze and respond to a smaller version of what we got.

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