Most Americans fail to realize the huge economic impact of the medical industrial complex until they feel the crunch from unpaid medical bills that caused 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies filed in the U.S. in 2007, according to a study by Harvard researchers.

By J.C. Smith, MA, DC

If the present course for health care does not radically change, America will be financially crippled as President Obama warned: “paying more, getting less, and going broke.”1 As example, recently Blue Shield of California announced its plans to raise rates by as much as 59 percent, and as the bellwether Golden State goes, so does the nation.2

Most Americans fail to realize the huge economic impact of the medical industrial complex until they feel the crunch from unpaid medical bills that caused 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies filed in the U.S. in 2007, according to a study by Harvard researchers.3 To the surprise of even the researchers, 78 percent of those filers had medical insurance at the start of their illness, including 60.3 percent who had private coverage, not Medicare or Medicaid.4

Dr. David Himmelstein, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, commented: “Unless you’re Bill Gates you’re just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick.”

“This study provides further evidence that the U.S. healthcare system is broken,” according to James E. Dalen, MD, MPH.5 The Harvard study underscored President Obama’s argument for health care reform legislation. In a letter to Democratic Senate leaders, the president said:

“Healthcare reform is not a luxury. It’s a necessity we cannot defer. Soaring healthcare costs make our current course unsustainable. It is unsustainable for our families, whose spiraling premiums and out-of-pocket expenses are pushing them into bankruptcy and forcing them to go without the checkups and prescriptions they need.”6

Not only are costs and bankruptcy skyrocketing, so is accountability. During the Obama health care reform debate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it was notable that the medical industrial complex – the American Medical Association (AMA), the HMOs, Big Pharma, and the American Hospital Association – was not called before Congress to explain why there is a health care crisis wrought with high costs and poor outcomes.

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