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INDUSTRY: Medical Bankruptcy Rate Disputedby Eric Novack

For those who remember the endless headlines of "50% of All
Bankruptcies Due to Medical Debt", and particularly for those who have
based many calls for national, single-payer health care, on that paper
by Single-payer zealot David Himmelstein, here is a must read.  Law
professor Todd Zywicki, testifying at the US House of Representatives
Judiciary Committee, this week. The link to the testimony is a downloadable word file… all 21 pages are worth reading.

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10 replies »

  1. Ultimately, we should raise the baseline of care in America. It would be absolutely un-American to socialize it absolutely… All American children have access to public education, but we send our kids to the best private schools if we can. Don’t we? It is not a perfect system, but most people would say we are better off with a public education system, even though we pay taxes for it..

  2. This criticism of the study is not new. Here is a link to one stating pretty much the same things in February 2005.
    http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/heriot200502110735.asp
    Professor Gail Heriot states:
    “Maybe that’s why only 28.3 percent of the surveyed debtors themselves agreed with the authors that their bankruptcy was substantially caused by “illness or injury.” The rest put the blame elsewhere, even when the study labeled their problems as at least in part “medical.””
    “Buried in the study is the fact that only 27 percent of the surveyed debtors had unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding $1,000 over the course of the two years prior to their bankruptcy.”
    So Alex, is 28.3% an acceptable number for you? What would be acceptable? And when we talk about percentages how many people does that affect, 100’s, 1000’s?

  3. I like this formula. Just do a study with a laughable methodology. Assert it as fact. When it is debunked all the people who have been using it as ammo can say “it’s not important whether it’s true or not.”
    Well, it is important. It is important to not distort findings and to not lie to try to prove a point. Health Affairs should be ashamed of themselves for publishing that piece of crap in the first place.

  4. Re-reading my last post I find I mischarcterized the healthcare industry participating in bribes. That is not proveable and needs to be retracted. I really meant to say that there is a lot of money (millions) spent by the healthcare industry in lobbying politicians and giving political donations. Sorry, I sometimes get ahead of myself.

  5. “(1) U.S. culture is radically different than others”
    No kidding. On healthcare others say “WE” in the U.S. they say “ME”.
    “2) they have never offered to move there”
    I still hold my Canadian Citizenship.
    “3) they’ve never seriously studied the other country’s policies,”
    Been there, lived there, know it from the inside. Had cataract surgery there for 1/2 the cost. Will go back to have any more surgery done for 1/2 the cost. Care to come with me?
    “Because I know that even well-funded, well-run national health plans CANNOT fund every major medical crisis.”
    Just ask U.S. insurance companies that deny care, or as thay say, deny coverage. They even deny care(coverage) retroactively.
    “The rest of us are trying to cope”
    Cope with what, a dishonest and overly costly healthcare system that runs on profits, profits, profits and political bribes, bribe, bribes, and not healthcare?

  6. ARE WE CANADA?
    IMHO, the most laughable parts of when someone Utopian Socialist says that the U.S. should be France-UK-Canada-Cuba-whatever when they fail to note:
    (1) U.S. culture is radically different than others,
    (2) they have never offered to move there,
    (3) they’ve never seriously studied the other country’s policies, and
    (4) they never account for current changes (e.g., UK/CDN changes in medical privatization, French auto fires).
    Of course, a major incident causes financial changes. Like my former live-in love at an Ivy medical school — she owes $125,000 and Mariah Carey’s nephew is debt-free.
    Am I supposed to resent Mariah Carey? Only if I were a loser and schmiel. Because I know that even well-funded, well-run national health plans CANNOT fund every major medical crisis.
    If it so rotten and lousy in the U.S. — move somewhere else, please. The rest of us are trying to cope, thank you very much.

  7. Thought I’d throw this into the debate.
    “Bankruptcy Rates in the Canada and the US – The huge disparity is because of the health care system.
    The US bankruptcy rate (6.9 per thousand) for the year 2004 is more than twice as high as the Canadian bankruptcy rate (2.6 per thousand). The main reason for the huge disparity in bankruptcy rates in Canada and the US is because of the different health care systems in the two countries.
    Canada has universal health care for all citizens paid for out of taxes. The US system is based on private enterprise mainly provided by insurance companies.”

  8. Ah yes, where does the accumulation of other debt and medical debt really force a person into bankruptcy. What comes first, accumulation of medical debt then other debt, or other debt and then unexpected and uncontrollable medical debt? Do people take on medical debt, or does medical debt come on its own? If only the debtor could get rid of the house payments and car payments and credit card payments, then that medical debt would be payable. I’m not ready yet, after reading all 21 pages, to accept Professor Zywicki’s conclusions. He makes some contradicting statements. He examines other studies, I think he also needs to have his analysis examined. Maybe we can have a bebate here on his testimony.
    But should we not be asking why ANY medical debt should exist in the first place. Caregivers need to be reimbursed and care seekers need care. We are not talking about Cadillacs after all. A single pay system takes care of both of those sides, AND controls costs. One note which Professor Zywicki seems to be proud of (according to him) is that ONLY in the immigrant population is the rate of uninsured individuals increasing, while the rate for insured in the citizen population is doing well. Could that be because immigrants take on the low paying jobs that DON”T provide health insurance AND whose incomes are too low to AFFORD health insurance. Is this more a statement of the (growing) divide of income distribution?

  9. That NO ONE should have to declare bankruptcy as a result of a medical issue is obviously unimportant. Let’s continue to hold committee meetings on whether to order the Titanic’s deck chairs in a line or a circle.

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