The American Journal of Medicine today published a study showing that illness or medical expenses contributed to 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007. That will be scant comfort to anyone already in that category, but it's valuable to get these study results out into the world. There are many interesting numbers in that study, but two conclusions stand out:

– "The share of bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 50% between 2001 and 2007."
– "Most medical debtors were well educated and middle class; three quarters had health insurance."

Here's "Table 2" from the study:

Medical Causes of Bankruptcy, 2007*

Percent of All
Bankruptcies

Debtor said medical bills were reason for bankruptcy29.0%
Medical bills >$5000 or >10% of annual
family income
34.7%
Mortgaged home to pay medical bills5.7%
Medical bill problems (any of above 3)57.1%
Debtor or spouse lost 2 weeks or more of income due to illness or became completely disabled38.2%
Debtor or spouse lost 2 weeks or more of income to care for ill family member6.8%
Income loss due to illness (either of above 2)40.3%
Debtor said medical problem of self or spouse was reason for bankruptcy32.1%
Debtor said medical problem of other family member was reason for bankruptcy10.8%
Any of above62.1%

*Percentage based on recent homeowners rather than all debtors.
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If you want to read the study itself, click here. You'll need to have Adobe Reader (or Adobe Acrobat) on your computer; to download Adobe Reader, click here.

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