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Can You Afford To Be Sick?

Ordinary Medical Bills Causing Bankruptcy

According to Reuters News Service, over half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by ordinary medical bills. Most of the people sent into debt by illness are middle-class workers with health insurance.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, estimated medical bankruptcies affect about two million people every year, if both debtors and their dependents, including about 700,000 children, are counted.

"Our study is frightening. Unless you’re Bill Gates you’re just one serious illness away from bankruptcy," said Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the study.

"Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick. Health insurance offered little protection."

A few quick facts:
  • Three-fifths of U.S. bankruptcies (more than 60 percent) are caused by medical bills.
  • According to The American Journal of Medicine, most of those who filed for bankruptcy were middle-class, well-educated homeowners.
  • Based on the current bankruptcy filing rate, about one person every 15 seconds files a medical bankruptcy. In other words, you better not get sick.
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