News & Events

A national study of medical bankruptcies

This research was published in the American Journal of Medicine using 2007 data (many more people have lost their jobs and health insurance since 2008, as we all know):

"Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a National Study"

David U. Himmelstein, MD, Deborah Thorne, PhD, Elizabeth Warren, JD, Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH

Some findings were that:

  • 62.1% of all personal bankruptcies have a medical cause
  • Of those, 4 out of 5 (80%) started out with health insurance
  • The share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 50% between 2001 and 2007
  • Most medical debtors were well educated and middle class; three quarters had health insurance, 2/3 owned a home
  • Many families were underinsured for the medical care they needed and had thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Illnesses of workers or someone in their family caused the workers to lose their jobs, thus losing their medical coverage for themselves or for their sick family members (2/5, or 40%)