Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy

33 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2005  

David U. Himmelstein

Harvard Medical School - Department of Medicine

Elizabeth Warren

Harvard Law School

Deborah Thorne

Independent

Steffie J. Woolhandler

Harvard Medical School - Department of Medicine

Date Written: February 8, 2005

Abstract

In 2001, 1.458 million American families filed for bankruptcy. To investigate medical contributors to bankruptcy we surveyed 1771 personal bankruptcy filers in five Federal courts, and subsequently completed in-depth interviews with 931 of them. About half of debtors cited medical causes, indicating that between 1.850 and 2.227 million Americans (filers plus dependents) experienced medical bankruptcy. Among individuals whose illness led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7% had insurance at the onset of illness. Medical debtors were 42% more likely than other debtors to experience lapses in coverage. Even middle class, insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick.

Keywords: medical, bankruptcy, debt, illness

Suggested Citation

Himmelstein, David U. and Warren, Elizabeth and Thorne, Deborah and Woolhandler, Steffie J., Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy (February 8, 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=664565 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.664565

David U. Himmelstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Medical School - Department of Medicine ( email )

181 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-665-1032 (Phone)

Elizabeth Warren

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-3101 (Phone)
617-496-6118 (Fax)

Deborah Thorne

Independent

No Address Available

Steffie J. Woolhandler

Harvard Medical School - Department of Medicine ( email )

181 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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