Misdiagnosis: A Comment on 'Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy' and the Media Publicity Surrounding It

18 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2018

See all articles by Gail L. Heriot

Gail L. Heriot

American Civil Rights Project; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Manhattan Institute

Date Written: 2006


In early February 2005, a barrage of media publicity accompanied Health Affairs’ publication of "Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy" — just a few weeks before the U.S. Senate was scheduled to take up bankruptcy reform legislation. Headlines like “Medical Bills Blamed in Half of Bankruptcies: and “Medical Bills Cause About Half of Bankruptcies, Study Finds” ran in major newspapers all over the country. For a while, the publicity made bankruptcy policy seem almost glamorous.

The problem with these headlines is that they were false. The study made no finding that medical bills were involved in half of all bankruptcies. Nor did it find that illness or injury, at least as those terms are ordinarily used, were major (or even minor) contributors to half of all bankruptcies. Stripped of its rhetorical excess, the study’s actual findings were far more modest — to the point that the media might not have been interested at all if they had understood it better. This article critiques the study and the publicity surrounding it.

Keywords: bankruptcy, medical bills, health insurance

JEL Classification: A00, A10, K10

Suggested Citation

Heriot, Gail L., Misdiagnosis: A Comment on 'Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy' and the Media Publicity Surrounding It (2006). Texas Review of Law & Politics, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2006, San Diego Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3105661 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3105661

Gail L. Heriot (Contact Author)

American Civil Rights Project ( email )

P.O. Box 12207
Dallas, TX 75225
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.americancivilrightsproject.org/

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Suite 1150
Washington, DC 20425

Manhattan Institute ( email )

52 Vanderbilt Avenue
New York, NY 10017
United States

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