Medical Bankruptcies Still a Problem in Massachusetts

The 2006 Massachusetts law that required nearly everyone to buy health insurance has not significantly staunched residents' pain from medical bankruptcies, according to a new study, reports the Boston Globe.

  • A survey of Massachusetts residents who filed for bankruptcy in July 2009 found that 53 per cent cited a medical cause, down from 59 per cent who blamed a medical cause in a survey done in early 2007, before the state law had been fully implemented.
  • But because of the small number of people surveyed, the difference was not statistically significant, according to the study in the American Journal of Medicine.

    Lead study author Dr. David Himmelstein says medical bills are still causing bankruptcies because health costs in the state have continued rising sharply. High premium costs, along with large copayments and deductibles, often expose families with insurance to substantial out-of-pocket costs, says Himmelstein, a professor of public health at City University of New York.

    "People think they have reasonable insurance until they try and use it," Himmelstein says. "You are carrying an umbrella and it starts to rain and you put it up and it's full of holes. For most people, it just hasn't rained yet."

    Himmelstein says his findings suggest that the US national health overhaul, which was largely modelled on the Massachusetts law and will take full effect in 2014, will not ease the number of medical bankruptcies, either.

    Source: Kay Lazar, Medical Bankruptcies a Continuing Problem, Study Finds, Boston Globe, March 8, 2011.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 15 March 2011
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