Last updated on: 8/11/2010 | Author:

Will people no longer be at risk of medical bankruptcy?

PRO (yes)


Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States, stated the following in an email to supporters after signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as quoted in the Mar. 22, 2010 article “President Obama Marks Healthcare Victory: ‘We Did Not Fear Our Future – We Shaped It,'” available at

“[E]very American will finally be guaranteed high-quality, affordable health care coverage. Every American will be covered under the toughest patient protections in history. Arbitrary premium hikes, insurance cancellations, and discrimination against preexisting conditions will now be gone forever…

And we’ll finally start reducing the cost of care – creating millions of jobs, preventing families and businesses from plunging into bankruptcy, and removing over a trillion dollars of debt from the backs of our children. But the victory that matters most tonight goes beyond the laws and far past the numbers. It is the peace of mind enjoyed by every American, no longer one injury or illness away from catastrophe.”

Mar. 22, 2010


Cathy Sparkman, JD, Director of Government Affairs for the Association of Surgical Technologists, wrote in the May 2010 issue of Surgical Technologist:

“[PPACA] makes premium tax credits available through the Exchange to ensure people can obtain affordable coverage. Credits will be available for people with incomes above Medicaid eligibility and below 400 percent of poverty who are not eligible for or offered other acceptable coverage. Tax credits will apply to premiums and cost-sharing to ensure protection against bankruptcy due to medical expenses. Effective 2014.”

May 2010


Maggie Mahar, PhD, Fellow at the Century Foundation, wrote in response to Paul Starr’s Dec. 17, 2009 article “What Is in the Health Care Bill,” published at

“The Senate plan limits how much even the wealthiest family buying insurance in the Exchange can be expected to pay, out-of-pocket, in a given year to a total of $11,900 for a family, and $5,950 for an individual. Again, lower-income households are expected to pay less…

These caps should virtually eliminate medical bankruptcy. The total amount that a family can possibly owe is low enough that providers will be willing to give them time to pay it off, and in many cases, to negotiate discounts.

When providers know that there is no way that you can ever pay a $50,000 bill, you wind up in bankruptcy court. When the amounts are smaller, and doable over time, negotiations are possible.”

[Editors Note: In March 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590), the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (HR 4872), and Executive Order 13535 which restricted federal funds from being used for abortion services. Pro, Con, or Not Clearly Pro or Con positions made prior to the final wording of these three elements of the health care reform legislation may have changed since March 2010.] Dec. 17, 2009

CON (no)


Quentin Young, MD, National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), stated the following in a Mar. 30, 2010 article “Where We Are Now on Health Reform,” available at

“The main cause of our dysfunctional health system, the for-profit private insurance industry, remains in the driver’s seat…

The bill will do little if anything to check the runaway health system costs and their ability to visit bankruptcy and other forms of penury on the American people.”

Mar. 30, 2010


Claudia Chaufan, MD, PhD, Professor of Sociology and Health Policy at University of California at San Francisco’s Institute for Health and Aging, wrote in the July 2, 2010, article “A Second Opinion on US Health Care Reform” published on the official blog of the Physicians for a National Health Program:

“Nearly 78 percent of personal bankruptcies in 2007 that were linked to medical debt involved persons who were insured at the onset of their illness or injury. PPACA [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act], by allowing the sale of premiums for policies that will cover only 60 percent of health expenses, will do predictably little to change this state of affairs.”

July 2, 2010


Jane Hamsher, MFA, Founder and Publisher of Firedoglake, wrote in her Mar. 19, 2010 article “Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill,” available at

“Myth 18: The bill will end medical bankruptcy and provide all Americans with peace of mind.

Fact: Most people with medical bankruptcies already have insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses will continue to be a burden on the middle class.

  • In 2009, 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy 
  • Of those, 62% were medically related 
  • Three-quarters of those had health insurance 
  • The Obama bill leaves 24 million without insurance 
  • The maximum yearly out-of-pocket limit for a family will be $11,900 on top of premiums 
  • A family with serious medical problems that last for a few years could easily be financially crushed by medical cost

Real health care reform is needed. But this bill falls short of that on many levels.”

Mar. 19, 2010