I'm pointing out this article from FactCheck.org on the oft-repeated claim that someone declares bankruptcy on on average every 30 seconds due to medical bills. Earlier tonight, columnist Mark Shields repeated the number -- characterizing it as 120 people every hour -- on the NewsHour.
Last year, someone filed for bankruptcy roughly every 30 seconds, according to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That’s a bankruptcy for any reason — not just the cost of health care. A 2005 Harvard study attributed half of all bankruptcies to health expenses, which would mean there’s a bankruptcy caused by health care every minute — at most. That study’s estimate has been questioned, however. It relied on a broad definition for medical bankruptcies. As we wrote back in Dec. 2008: The study “determined that 46.2 percent of bankruptcies were attributable to a major medical reason,” which included illness or injury, uncovered medical bills of more than $1,000 in the past two years, loss of two weeks of pay because of illness, or mortgaging a home to pay health care bills. “Any medical bankruptcy” under the study also included people who cited addiction, uncontrolled gambling or childbirth as a cause, bringing the “medical bankruptcies” percentage up to 54.5 percent.
[ABC News reporter Jake] Tapper says ABC News polling director Gary Langer found the Harvard estimate to be inflated when it first came out. Langer says Obama’s bankruptcy claim is “simply unsupportable.”
Think about that for a minute, because there's still some number of people who would still be declaring bankruptcy for a "medical reason" even if we had single-payer, universal health coverage in America.
...which included illness or injury...
It's very possible, indeed probable, that someone could become sick or injured who has health insurance, yet would still have to declare bankruptcy because the illness or injury lingered and worker's compensation insurance, Social Security disability insurance, etc. would be insufficient to enable them to pay their other bills.
I'm not saying that this isn't a problem. However, a little honesty about the real numbers, instead of demagoguery, would be a nice "change."