Nancy Spillane: Are you OK with medical bankruptcy?
September 25, 2017
Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. If the Graham/Cassidy Healthcare bill comes to fruition, that number will go up.
In the years 2011 to 2017, the United Kingdom had zero people claim bankruptcy due to medical bills, Japan had zero, Taiwan had zero, France had zero, Norway had zero, Germany had zero, the Netherlands had zero, Switzerland had zero. The United States had 4,872,487 people who claimed bankruptcy due to medical bills during this same timeframe.
Of all bankruptcies in the U.S., 62.1 percent have a medical cause. The share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 50 percent between 2001 and 2007.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than a quarter of U.S. adults struggle to pay their medical bills. This includes folks who have insurance, whether independently or through an employer. In 2014, an estimated 40 percent of Americans racked up debt resulting from a medical issue.
As legislators and the executive branch renew their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week, they might want to keep in mind a little-known financial consequence of the ACA — since its adoption, far fewer Americans have taken the extreme step of filing for personal bankruptcy. Filings have dropped about 50 percent, from 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016. Those years also represent the time frame when the ACA took effect.
America appears to be one of the few countries where citizens are afraid of their medical bills. As the above numbers illustrate, this is a justifiable fear.
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It's imperative that we let our congress people know that this is not acceptable to the majority of Americans. Now is the time to call our congress people and let them know it is not OK to pass a bill that will ensure the rise of medical bankruptcies.