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Health Insurance and Bankruptcy Rates in Canada and the United States

Type: Research Studies
Date Published: July 7, 2009
Authors:
Research Topics:
Health, Insurance
In a recent update to a previous study, Himmelstein et al (2009) concluded that in 2007, uninsured medical expenses or loss of income due to illness "caused" nearly two-thirds (62.1 percent) of all non-business bankruptcies in the United States. The authors blame this on America's pluralistic health insurance system. Himmelstein and co-author Woolhandler are well-known proponents of Canada's government-run, single-payer medical insurance system. The implicit assumption of their study is that a single-payer system would have prevented or significantly reduced the number of bankruptcies observed in the United States. Following this logic, we should expect to observe a lower rate of bankruptcy in Canada compared to the United States, all else being equal. Yet the most recent data shows that the non-business bankruptcy rate in Canada is statistically the same as it is in the United States.
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