Study: 60 percent of personal bankruptcies fueled by medical bills

Medical bills are a drag on patient finances, there's little doubt; but of late it's been a lot more common for them to be a millstone. In fact, they're a factor in more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, according to a paper published in the American Journal of Medicine.

The study, done by researchers from Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University, surveyed 2,134 random families who filed for bankruptcy between January and April 2007, before the country began struggling with the current financial crisis.

What they found was that while only 29 percent felt medical bills were directly responsible for their bankruptcy, 62 percent had crushing levels of medical debt accounting for more than 10 percent of family income.

What's striking is that more than 75 percent of these families actually had health insurance in place, but still couldn't afford their medical bills due to illness or injury. That may be because many illnesses are far from fully covered. For example, they found that patients with injuries paid $25,096 out of pocket in 2007, diabetics $26,971 and multiple sclerosis patients $34,167.

To learn more about t his study:
- read this Kaiser Health News piece

Related Articles:
MN governor vetoes medical debt history bill
Trend: Hospitals requiring upfront payments before treatment