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Will health care reform ease medical related bankruptcies?

There are many different reasons Ohioans may find themselves in financial distress. Unemployment, divorce and the overall tough economy have strained many. It is also not uncommon for people who have faced medical issues to seek out an experienced Cincinnati bankruptcy attorney.

Rising medical costs led to a federal overhaul related to healthcare. The federal health care reform intended, in part, to reduce the number of people seeking bankruptcy due to medical bills. A recent study conducted by Harvard University researchers, however, raises questions on whether health care reform will result in fewer medical related bankruptcies.

The federal reform used a law passed in Massachusetts in 2006 as a template. Researchers conducted a study of bankruptcies in that state that suggests the health care reform has not produced a statistically significant reduction in medical related bankruptcies in that state.

The Harvard researchers say that after Massachusetts reformed their health care law, the actual number of bankruptcies filed for medically-related bills rose from 7,504 in 2007 to over 10,000 medically related bankruptcies in 2009. Proportionately, however, the number of bankruptcies related to medical bills did drop slightly during the period. The proportion of bankruptcies filed in the state related to medical bills dropped from 59.3 percent in 2007 to 52.9 percent by mid-2009. The Harvard researchers say, however, the 6.4 percent drop is statistically insignificant.

The researchers say that most medical related bankruptcies are filed by middle class families that are covered by insurance. The research suggests that the reform in Massachusetts had little effect on the middle class burden attributed to health care costs.

Under the Massachusetts health care reform, middle class families continue to see high premiums, high co-pay costs, high deductibles and gaps in coverage. The research indicates that none of that has changed resulting in continued numbers of individuals seeking bankruptcy protection due to medical bills.

Source: US News and World Report, "Mass. Health Reform Hasn't Halted Medical Bankruptcies," 8 Mar 2011

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