It’s easy to view the issue of medical bankruptcy in America as just another political dispute, a polarizing issue mired in confusing statistics that has people picking sides and drawing battle lines.
But at GiveForward, we think it’s important to remember that behind this term lie the struggles of real people, and that anyone can help. Take Yossi Stein for example:
Yossi Stein spent his 64th birthday in the intensive care unit of a hospital recovering from a serious internal infection. But from the pictures taken that day, you’d never guess the man was in any pain – surrounded by his family, Yossi grinned from ear to ear.
A born fighter, Yossi has been defying odds for over 20 years, since he broke his neck and back after being hit by a drunk driver in 1990. Though he’s suffered from health complications ever since, Yossi has surprised everyone by continuing to pick himself up when life knocks him down.
Even still, Yossi has had to start back from square one in his recovery. He’s used up his savings and 401k to pay for his medical expenses and his family was forced to file bankruptcy. Unable to work in his condition, Yossi lost his life and health insurance and is now faced with crippling debt.
Medical Bankruptcy: The Controversy
Tied up with medical insurance and the healthcare debate, medical bankruptcy has become a politically charged topic, fueling a number of heated arguments on both sides of the issue.
And studies over the past few years haven’t helped to clear it up, instead turning the issue into a confusing numbers game with statistics and studies that frequently contradict themselves. A few examples:
- “Medical expenses account for 62 percent of bankruptcies in the United States.” – 2007 Harvard study
- “17 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical expenses.” – 2006 Kellogg School of Management study
- “Medical Bills Are the Biggest Cause of U.S. Bankruptcies” – 2013 NerdWallet Health study
- “56M Americans under age 65 will have trouble paying medical bills [in 2013]” – 2013 NerdWallet Health study
- “The percentage of people under age 65 in families having problems paying medical bills decreased from 21.7 percent in the first six months of 2011 to 20.3 percent in the first six months of 2012” – 2013 Center for Disease Control study
As you can see, the research surrounding medical bankruptcy will leave any normal person scratching her head and wondering what to believe. But the even bigger problem with the political polarization and contradicting statistics surrounding medical bankruptcy is that they distract people from the fact that there are still millions of Americans struggling to pay their medical bills every day.
The No-Nonsense Truth About Medical Bankruptcy
Regardless of percentages and political leanings, some people (and you might know them) are going to have to use up all their savings to pay off their medical bills. Many will be unable to pay for basic necessities like rent, food and heat. Some of them have children. A lot of them even have medical insurance.
These people are fighters. They’re battling cancer, major injuries, debilitating disease. Their bodies may not be on their side, but their spirits are relentlessly human. They hold on with a passion for life, even though life has dealt them a bad hand.
Despite their bravery, many of them are afraid. A body can only take so much. After hitting rock bottom, many will lose everything they have. To save money, some will cut corners with their treatments, not taking their prescription drugs as indicated, skipping doses, taking less medicine than prescribed or delaying a refill.
Some, like Yossi, will return to work before they’re physically ready in an attempt to ease their family’s financial burden.
The simple fact that there are people going through these hardships in the United States overshadows any statistic and is more important than any political argument.
How To Help Fight Medical Bankruptcy
Contrary to what many believe, human nature has always been collaborative, and evolution has favored humans who show kindness and help each other.
It follows that our generation is made up of the kindest people who have ever walked the planet. And today, it’s easier than ever before to express that kindness thanks to the state-of-the-art technology we have at our fingertips.
Crowdfunding has already changed lives, speaking volumes to the generosity people show towards others. At GiveForward, we’ve seen millions raised to help people pay off medical expenses.
But aside from streamlining donation collection, online fundraising has helped to create a community of support for people combatting physical and mental hardships. It’s a place to share thoughts, kind words and encouragement, for people to come together.
And that kind of human kindness will never make it into a statistic.