["We need to move ahead from the ACA to a single-payer, Medicare
for All system that assures first-dollar coverage for everyone." ]
[https://portside.org/] 

 DESPITE PROMISES OF ACA, STUDY SHOWS TWO-THIRDS OF PERSONAL
BANKRUPTCIES STILL CAUSED BY ILLNESS AND MEDICAL BILLS  
[https://portside.org/2019-02-10/despite-promises-aca-study-shows-two-thirds-personal-bankruptcies-still-caused-illness]


 

 Julia Conley 
 February 7, 2019
Common Dreams
[https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/02/07/despite-promises-aca-study-shows-two-thirds-personal-bankruptcies-still-caused]


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 _ "We need to move ahead from the ACA to a single-payer, Medicare for
All system that assures first-dollar coverage for everyone." _ 

 A majority of personal bankruptcy cases examined in a new study were
brought about by high medical bills—just as most bankruptcy cases
were before the passage of the Affordable Care Act., Joe Raedle/Getty
Images 

 

A new study shows how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has failed to
solve one of the major crises in the American for-profit health
insurance system that it was supposed to help eradicate: bankruptcies
related to high medical bills and other healthcare-related costs.

The Consumer Bankruptcy Project (CBP) examined
[https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304901?journalCode=ajph] 910
bankruptcies that were filed between 2013 and 2016 and found that,
similarly to before the ACA was passed in 2010, 66.5 percent of the
bankruptcies were brought about by medical bills families were unable
to afford or income loss due to illnesses.

"Unless you're Bill Gates, you're just one serious illness away from
bankruptcy." —Dr. David Himmelstein

About 530,000 American households continue to see their finances wiped
out each year due to medical costs, according to the report, which was
published in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Unless you're Bill Gates, you're just one serious illness away from
bankruptcy," said Dr. David Himmelstein, the study's lead author. "For
middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection.
Most of us have policies with so many loopholes, copayments, and
deductibles that illness can put you in the poorhouse. And even the
best job-based health insurance often vanishes when prolonged illness
causes job loss—just when families need it most."

The only solution to medical bankruptcies is a Medicare for All
system, said Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), one of
several national organizations that have led the fight for universal,
government-funded healthcare for decades.

"The ACA was a step forward, but 29 million remain uncovered, and the
epidemic of under-insurance is out of control," said Dr. Steffie
Woolhandler, a member of PNHP's Board of Directors, in a statement.
[https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2019/02/07/new-medical-bankruptcy-study-two-thirds-filers-cite-illness-and-medical-bills-0] "We
need to move ahead from the ACA to a single-payer, Medicare for All
system that assures first-dollar coverage for everyone."

The study came out a day after the Commonwealth Fund released
[https://www.commonwealthfund.org/sites/default/files/2019-02/Collins_hlt_ins_coverage_8_years_after_ACA_2018_biennial_survey_sb.pdf] its
own findings on the post-ACA healthcare system—namely, that more
Americans with employer-based healthcare plans are under-insured,
without continuous coverage all year, than were before the law was
passed.

Medical bills contributed to about 58 percent of bankruptcies between
2013 and 2016, while income loss due to illnesses or injuries were to
blame for about 44 percent; many bankruptcy filers cited both as
causes. The study's results were "virtually unchanged" from a similar
report the CBP compiled from 2001 to 2007, PNHP said.

The report "found no evidence that the ACA reduced the proportion of
bankruptcies driven by medical problems: 65.5 percent of debtors cited
a medical contributor to their bankruptcy in the period prior to the
ACA’s implementation as compared to 67.5 percent in the three years
after the law came into effect," PNHP said in a statement.

On social media, PNHP pointed out that the high prevalence of medical
cost-related bankruptcies was often cited as a reason to urgently pass
the ACA during congressional debates over the the law in 2010.

Lawmakers cited medical bankruptcy when passing the ACA, but new
@AMJPublicHealth
[https://twitter.com/AMJPublicHealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw] research
finds that the problem persists. 2/3 of bankruptcy filers cite illness
and medical bills as contributing factors. We need *real* financial
protection. #SinglePayer
[https://twitter.com/hashtag/SinglePayer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]
https://t.co/vpJUKiIdAj [https://t.co/vpJUKiIdAj]

— PNHP (@PNHP) February 7, 2019
[https://twitter.com/PNHP/status/1093578587880464384?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]

President Obama often talked about reducing medical bankruptcies as
one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act. https://t.co/sLqwMWFrsS
[https://t.co/sLqwMWFrsS] pic.twitter.com/L5vPrwgg4O
[https://t.co/L5vPrwgg4O]

— Margot Sanger-Katz (@sangerkatz) February 7, 2019
[https://twitter.com/sangerkatz/status/1093612627555741697?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]

Medicaid expansion under the ACA also did not improve the number of
medical-related bankruptcies, the report showed, with people filing
even in states that expanded the program. Middle-class households made
up most of the filers, owing to skyrocketing premiums and copays for
many.

On PNHP's Twitter feed, one user shared a firsthand account of how the
ACA has made health coverage more expensive for many American
families—and thus put just as many people at risk for medical
bankruptcy as there were before the law was passed.

I'm self employed. The ACA initially doubled our insurance cost (we're
Family Glitch victims), then tripled it. Last three years I've been
uninsured because it is completely unaffordable. We, everyone needs
#SinglePayer
[https://twitter.com/hashtag/SinglePayer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]
#MedicareForAll
[https://twitter.com/hashtag/MedicareForAll?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]
@AllOnMedicare [https://twitter.com/AllOnMedicare?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]
@KamalaHarris [https://twitter.com/KamalaHarris?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]
@BernieSanders [https://twitter.com/BernieSanders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]

— Charles DeAnt (@CharlesDeAnt) February 7, 2019
[https://twitter.com/CharlesDeAnt/status/1093591726906691584?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]

The ACA has also been left vulnerable to attacks from President Donald
Trump and the Republican Party due to its high costs for families,
noted Woolhandler.

Instead of moving toward a Medicare for All system, she said, "The
Trump administration and Republicans in several states are taking us
in reverse: cutting Medicaid, threatening to gut protections for the
more than 61 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, and
allowing insurers to peddle stripped-down policies that offer no real
protection."

Bankruptcy can provide relief for families, study co-author Robert
Lawless said, but like the relief the ACA provided to many Americans
who were able to sign up for insurance after the law was passed,
bankruptcy is a temporary and insufficient fix.

"Bankruptcy may provide a fresh start, but it comes at a high
financial and emotional cost for those who file," Lawless said.
"Filing for bankruptcy can stop the financial bleeding that the
healthcare system imposes, but curing that system's ills is the only
lasting solution."

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
3.0 License

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