Costs of Care
An editorial in the Sun Journal today reviews a Harvard study on the leading cause of bankruptcy in Maine.
When experts talk about the crisis in America's health care system, two culprits are often the focus: double-digit yearly increases in costs and the 45 million people who lack insurance.
The problem, however, goes much deeper. A new study from Harvard University researchers has found that about half of all personal bankruptcy filings in the United States are the result of unpaid medical bills. Even more disturbing, a majority of those bankruptcies were middle-class homeowners who had health insurance, at least at the start of their illness.
The study reports that three out of every four individuals declaring bankruptcy because of medical bills had insurance when their illness began.
In addition to passing deep cuts to social programs that might have helped these people, the Bush administration and Republicans are trying to strip away the last shreds of protection from these kinds of crushing costs. On Thursday, the Senate Judiaciary Committee will begin hearings on the "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" (Orwell would be proud). The bill does nothing to prevent the abuses of companies like Enron and Worldcom, does nothing to reform the homestead exemption that millionaires use to protect their assets by buying mansions, and even shields anti-abortion terrorists from being liable for civil penalties. What the bill does do, however, is make it harder for those who genuinely need to declare bankrupty, especially those who have been blindsided by a serious illness, to recieve protection from their creditors.
The Sun Journal piece also mentioned Baldacci's attempt to improve the situation:
And Dirigo Choice, an innovative if risky proposal to increase the number of Mainers with insurance and slow the escalation of medical spending in the state, must be constantly defended from ideologues who hate it so much they would kill it in the crib before it has a chance to attract participants and grow into a successful program.
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