Quick Hit: In US, Women Hit Hardest by Medical Debt

From a post at Change.org:

According to a study (pdf) by the Commonwealth Fund, in 2007, 33 percent of working-age women, compared to 25 percent of men, faced medical bills that left them unable to pay for food, rent or heat; caused them to take out a mortgage on their home or take on credit card debt; or used up all their savings. Economists can’t agree on the precise number, but medical expenses account for somewhere between one third and two thirds of bankruptcies in the U.S. The damage isn’t just financial — once the debt is acquired, people are less likely to seek continued care.

This is a US only study, and is influenced in large part by the health care policies and costs here in the US, but I would not be surprised to find that whatever medical costs exist in a country fall disproportionately hard on women with disabilities.

4 Comments

  1. One of my co-workers has been hit by long-term medical debt. It’s really crushing & she has to manage every little thing financially.

  2. Yes, in Australia – despite universal healthcare – everything other than (most) medications, some scans/tests and most medical professional visits is severely underfunded. If you’re injured on the job or in a car accident there are specific taxpayer-supported schemes to help with things like rehabilitation and living aids, but if you don’t qualify for those (e.g. you have always been disabled or you acquire a disability in another way), you have to pay yourself. Large areas of Australia, especially rural Australia, have no public transport at all, leaving people who can’t drive to rely on friends, relatives or expensive taxis (there is a subsidy, but not a great one) – and many places, like my town, have no accessible taxis, either.

    There are bright spots, though – adult and older children receive a lump sum towards incontinence products every year; dental access is slowly improving for people with chronic medical conditions and disabilities; rural healthcare is definitely getting better, especially for mental health.

  3. I wonder how much of it has to do with motherhood.

    It’s expensive to have a complication-free birth, even with good insurance. (to my knowledge) And that’s if the baby is healthy and doesn’t require a week or so in the incubator… and potential surgeries down the line… and….

    There’s also the missed income – either you stay home as long as you can on your partner’s income or you miss days at work at lose money there. That’s money that could have gone to medical things.

    Another part of motherhood is when your kid gets sick (a lot) before they’re 18, and even if they’re on your partner’s insurance, who takes care of them? Who misses work for their weekly appointments? Who drives all over the county looking for the one pharmacy that has this one drug at this dosage?

    Um. Maybe in some households dad does help with those things. I’m thinking of my family and how much my mom had to do for my illnesses before 18 (and after). She can’t miss a day for her problems, even now. 🙁

    I think bankruptcy was looming in 2003 – I had surgery after a year or so of weekly appointments. (In addition to other issues.) My dad did help by living in town – my sister stayed with him when she couldn’t be at home. (nuclear pill, surgery)

    Yeah, families can be a big drain on women (right mom? *snore*) because who takes care of their parents, who is the caretaker in your mind? Not the son, the daughter.

    Just a bit of a personal story to make the numbers come alive – it’s not just a statistic, this is about people’s lives!

  4. I filed for bankruptcy — fortunately just before the USian bankruptcy … reform* … laws went into effect in 2005 — because of medical debt. And I had insurance. I just couldn’t keep up with the co-pays on surgeries and hospital stays. It was probably the best decision I could have made though I’ve caught some shit over it. Debt is a moral issue, y’know, and actually using bankruptcy protection laws makes you a shitty person.

    Unless you are very wealthy and/or a corporation.
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