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

University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: 2006

Abstract

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)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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