Monday, August 31, 2009

it doesn't take a genius | Medical Bankruptcies in the US

In 1981, 8% of families filing for bankruptcy did so in the aftermath of a serious medical problem.*

A 2001 study in five states found that illness or medical bills contributed to about half of bankruptcies.

In 2007, using a conservative definition, The American Journal of Medicine discovered that 62.1% of all bankruptcies were medical.

Most 2007 medical debtors were well educated, owned homes, and had middle-class occupations.

Three quarters had health insurance.

Using identical definitions in 2001 and 2007, the share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6%.

The odds that a bankruptcy had a medical cause in 2007 were nearly two and a half times higher than in 2001.

It doesn't take a genius to see where this curve leads. The knuckleheads who say we can't afford to fix health care are not thinking clearly. We can't afford not to fix it. Tell them to snap out of it and get to work.

* Sullivan TA, Warren E, Westbrook JL. The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 2000

photo by Andy Kiel


Bernard Moon said...

"How do you fix it?" is the question for most. Not whether we should or not. Tort reform is a good start since the weight of legal suits and malpratice insurance adds an incredible amount to the topline. Also because of such threats, doctors assign patients to unnecessary and expensive procedures (i.e. let's take another MRI to be safe?). But the attorneys' associations and the Democrats in Congress have a long marriage, so do you think there will be action here? Doctor fraud is a good place too. About 10% of claims to insurance firms are fraudulent. Where else?

jim hancock said...

Bernard, sorry to be slow responding to your comment. What pains me is the number of people who who seem to take exactly the position that nothing is wrong. That number appears to be shrinking rapidly though, and I think your question is exactly right: "How do you fix it?"

If by tort reform you mean inoculating corporations from responsibility for wrongdoing, that's a nonstarter as far as I'm concerned. If you mean establishing a sane and equitable set of parameters, count me in.

If you mean to lay everything at the doorstep of Democrats in Congress and their demon dogs the attorneys (or have I got it backwards?) I recommend putting down the kool-aid and backing away from the table. If you mean there's enough blame to go around, I'm with you.

I don't know who this Doctor Fraud is but I imagine he or she must be unsavory; let's go get 'em.

Fraudulent claims may well take care of themselves—as may unwarranted CYA testing—if we get this right.

I'll continue my response on the front page with the best set of guidelines I've found to date...

Bernard Moon said...

rarely does an all or none solution work, jim. so no, i'm not talking about allow companies to have free reign. it's the ridiculous lawsuits that have to be cut out of the system, such as a woman getting $40+ million from McDonald's for spilling hot coffee on herself claiming that she didn't know it was that hot. specific with healthcare, it's all those frivolous lawsuits that burden our system and force hospitals to settle rather than try to win it in court. i know several doctors that wanted to take it to court and they were confident of winning, but the hospital or HMO decided to just settle to save a million or ten on legal costs. slimy attorneys know this and take advantage of the system and this adds a huge amount to our healthcare costs.

many problems that are at the base of the healthcare system's problems that cannot be shoved under the rug of any new reforms. i believe someone from any side had to step up and seek to make these changes first.