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The New York Times recently reported on an interesting bankruptcy study published online on June 4, 2009, in The American Journal of Medicine. According to the study, nearly two out of three bankruptcies arise as the result of medical bills. In 2007, medical problems contributed to 62.1% of all bankruptcies. And between 2001 and 2007, the percentage of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 50%.

The data on medical bankruptcy, compiled by researches at Harvard and Ohio University, is based on a survey of 2,314 randomly selected bankruptcy filers during early 2007. Among families who were bankrupted by medical problems, those with private insurance reported average medical bills of $17,749, compared to those who were uninsured, who faced an average of $26,971 in medical costs. Those who had health insurance, but lost it in the course of their illness, reported average medical bills of $22,568.

The Times reported that hospital costs accounted for about half the expenses (48%), followed by prescription drugs (18.6%), doctor’s bills (15.1%) and insurance premiums (4.1%).

Given the current state of the economy, the full scope of the problem is probably even worse today than in 2007. Hopefully, Congress will deal reasonably and wisely with the healthcare issue and reform a broken system.

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