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Health care, what some consider being a basic human right, what our country considers to be a privilege to those who have the funds to support it. Unfortunately, today's American health care system is no longer only negatively affecting the poor and uninsured, but is now affecting middle class suburbia. This paper will focus on the cause and possible solution to the recent upswing in bankruptcy filings due to medical health care costs.

Harvard professors Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, along with Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren and Ohio University sociology and anthropology professor Deborag Throne compiled statistically accurate data on bankruptcies in the United States. Their published study found that between 1981 and 2001, medical related bankruptcies have increased by an astounding 2,200 percent. This when compared to the 360% growth in all personal bankruptcies during the same period, is simply a figure that cannot go ignored.

"About twenty-five years ago, filing for bankruptcy because of debts from medical problems was virtually unheard of." (Frosch, 2005) Today medical costs are the second leading cause of personal bankruptcy, topped only by job loss. One factor affecting this rise in personal bankruptcies relating to medical costs is the dramatically increasing health care costs in the United States. "In 2002 American paid an average of $5440 in medical expenditures, up $419 from the previous year alone." (Frosch, 2005)

The major increases in medical costs can be attributed to technological advancements and the high costs associated with break-through drugs. Capitalism is the driving force of the medication industry. Higher medical costs are the first major factor increasing health care costs. "What you're seeing in the bankruptcy numbers is a function of the fact that there is a very thin social safety net in this country in terms of health care." (Frosch, 2005)

Another major factor is the huge spike in the past fifteen years of uninsured Americans. In 2005, there are 45 million uninsured Americans, a jump of 10 million since 1990. The uninsured have always been a humanitarian issue heavily considered when dealing with political reform. There is however a segment of the American population that gets more attention, the middle-class.

The study gave other interesting information. It is not the poor that are suffering most in this case, but the middle-class. The middle class accounted for about 90% of all medical bankruptcies as according to the study. The majority of people affected "...are educated Americans with decent jobs homes and families." (Frosch, 2005) A demographic study was conducted on Americans who filed for bankruptcy in 2001. "The average debtor was a 41-year old woman homeowner, with children, and some education." (Frosch, 2005) More than 50% of these debtors had medical insurance when they became ill and when they filed. Serious illnesses rack up costs at very high rates, rates that have only been drastically increasing in the past few years. It is these increases that make many insurance policy holders file for bankruptcy. Most insured people who had to file were bankrupted due to co-payments, deductibles, or uncovered services.

One would think that political reform on this issue would be at the forefront. This unfortunately does not hold true. Political reform has not been attacking this issue; in fact, un-passed legislation may make the matter even worse. The momentum in Washington is towards bankruptcy reform.



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