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How many people become bankrupt over medical bills in the United States?

by tom44 on April 25, 2014

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Question by Ec: How many people become bankrupt over medical bills in the United States?

Best answer:

Answer by rpg
This figure is somewhat disputed because different people have different definitions of what counts as a bankruptcy “caused” or “contributed to” by medical bills.

The leading researcher on this topic is Elizabeth Warren (who now has a Federal position in Washington). However she has written quite a bit on this topic as a Harvard Law School professor. You can google her name and find some of her articles available on-line.

Some people dispute her definition of “medical bankruptcy.” They believe that her definition is too liberal.

So in order to answer your question, one thing you’d need to do is to define what you would count as a bankruptcy caused (or contributed to) by medical bills. Would you count $ 100,000 in unpaid medical bills incurred within 6 months before filing bankruptcy? (most people probably would) What about $ 100,000 in medical bills that the debtor paid by refinancing his or her home, which home is now in foreclosure. (that one is a little harder) What about a person who has chronic ongoing medical expenses that are putting him or her $ 500 further in debt every month? What about a person who suffered a $ 100,000 heart attack which WAS paid for by his or her health insurance, but who then lost his or her job as a result of the heart attack, and who is filing bankruptcy because s/he has been “living off credit cards” for the past 9 months and can’t find a job due to the bad economy? (that one may be a little harder too)

Whatever cutoff point you pick for counting something or not counting it as a “medically caused” bankruptcy, you will find some people who argue with your definition. So basically you just need to pick something that you can justify for whatever purposes you are doing the research and then be prepared to defend it.

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