“The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds," President Obama said at the opening of his White House forum on health care reform just now.
ABC News polling director Gary Langer says this just isn’t so.
The claim, based on a 2001 survey, "is simply unsupportable," he writes. "The figure comes from a 2005 Harvard University study saying that 54 percent of bankruptcies in 2001 were caused by health expenses."
But the Harvard survey asked those filing bankruptcy whether health care costs were “a reason" behind their troubles. They were included.
They also included any bankruptcy filers with $1,000 or more in unreimbursed medical expenses in the previous two years.
Moreover, the Harvard researchers’ use of the term “medical” for expenses includes issues such as having a gambling problem.
"We reviewed it internally and knocked it down at the time," says Langer about the report. "An academic reviewer did the same in 2006. Recalculating Harvard’s own data, he came up with a far lower figure – 17 percent. A more recent study by another group, approaching it another way, indicates that in 2007 about eight-tenths of one percent of Americans lived in families that filed for bankruptcy as a result of medical costs.
Read Langer’s whole fact-check HERE.
Note: Factcheck.org took a look at this claim and concluded that there was a bankruptcy declared every 30 seconds last year, but "even a very high estimate, like the Harvard study…would only attribute half of those personal bankruptcies to medical expenses. So that’s one health-related bankruptcy every minute at most.”
Factcheck took a more thorough look at the Harvard study in December 2008.