Listen To The Story


Steve Chiotakis: We've heard horror stories before about the cost of medical care. Now one Harvard doctor says most American families are just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. There's a new report out today in the American Journal of Medicine that says medical bills are involved in 60 percent of personal bankruptcies here in the United States. The latest from Washington, and Tamara Keith.

Tamara Keith: The share of bankruptcies that could be blamed on medical bills rose by 50 percent from 2001 to 2007. But here's the amazing thing: 75 percent of those bankruptcies hit people covered by health insurance who were still overwhelmed by medical debts.

The research comes from Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University. Researchers say most medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes and had middle-class jobs. The results are based on a survey of families who filed for bankruptcy in early '07.

Multiple Sclerosis caused the highest out-of-pocket costs, followed by diabetes, injuries, mental illness and heart disease. Of course, serious medical problems can also lead to a loss of income due to missed work.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.