Illness, Injury and Medical Expenses Contributed to More Than 60 Percent of 2007 Bankruptcies & Less Than a Quarter Were Uninsured

Illness and health care costs as contributors to personal bankruptcy for middle class families

From 2007 to 2009, researchers led by faculty at Harvard and Ohio universities studied a national random sample of personal bankruptcy cases to determine the extent to which medical problems contributed to the individuals' financial difficulties.

The research focused on bankruptcies filed in 2007; the research team used the 2007 study to update a similar, smaller study of bankruptcies filed in 2001 (see Program Results Report ID# 042425).

Key Findings

  • Illness, injury and medical expenses contributed to 62.1 percent of the bankruptcy cases studied from 2007.
  • The proportion of bankruptcy filers citing medical-related factors increased almost 50 percent between 2001 and 2007.
  • Most of the 2007 respondents—about 70 percent—had health insurance coverage at the time they filed for bankruptcy.
  • The federal bankruptcy reform law passed in 2007 did not seem to have a major impact on medical bankruptcies.