A health system that bankrupts families
America's corporatized health care system keeps producing unpleasant surprises. We've known for some time that this system, which puts profit above care, is morally bankrupt--but now we learn that it's bankrupting hundreds of thousands of American families. In fact, the system's exorbitant medical bills haa ve become the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcies in the USA.
Researchers from Harvard and Ohio State recently conducted a national, random-sample survey of more than 2,300 families who filed for bankruptcy in 2007. As they report in the American Journal of Medicine, 60 percent of those families were forced over the edge by high health care bills. The situation is likely much worse today, since this survey was taken before the current spike in job losses.
Here's an even more sobering finding: The great majority of those bankrupted were not uninsured poor folks, but middle-class, well-educated people--75 percent of whom had health insurance! As one of the researchers, Dr. David Himmelstein, put it: "Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy."
What a disgrace for the richest country in the history of the world. Indeed, America's deplorable connection between physical illness and fiscal disaster does not occur in other highly developed countries, because they provide national health insurance for all of their citizens.
Yet, too many of our representatives in Washington don't really want to change our current system of health care profiteering. Instead, they merely want to tinker with reform by extending our corporatized system to more people. That will neither improve health care nor prevent more of those financial catastrophes. We need a complete overhaul of the system by adopting a single-payer method of insurance coverage for everyone.
To help push change that works, contact Physicians for a National Health Program: www.pnhp.org.
Jim Hightower, former agriculture commissioner in Texas, edits a monthly newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown."