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Robbien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:26 AM
Original message
Study: Most Personal Bankruptcies Caused By Medical Bills, Illness
Source: The Hartford Courant



Medical bills or illness contributed to more than 62 percent of personal bankruptcies in 2007, a new study says, showing a nearly 50 percent increase from 2001 and not even reflecting the growing number of people who are losing their jobs and insurance in the recession.

The national study by researchers at Harvard University and Ohio University follows their five-state 2005 study that found medical problems contributed to at least 46.2 percent of bankruptcies in 2001. When identical definitions are applied, the share of bankruptcies involving medical issues has risen 49.6 percent since then.

"The U.S. health care financing system is broken, and not only for the poor and uninsured," said the new report, which will appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine and online today. "Middle class families frequently collapse under the strain of a health care system that treats physical wounds, but often inflicts fiscal ones."

Medical bankruptcies will total an estimated 866,000 this year and involve 2.3 million Americans, based on the current bankruptcy filing rate, the report says.

. . .

"Private health insurance is a defective product, akin to an umbrella that melts in the rain," said lead author Dr. David Himmelstein, associate professor of medicine at Harvard. "Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy."


Read more: http://www.courant.com/business/hc-bankruptcies-medical...




I expect this study probably won't get much media play.

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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:29 AM
Response to Original message
1. add one more to the count....
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Robbien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:58 AM
Response to Reply #1
8. That is sad news indeed

if your comment means what I think it does

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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:29 AM
Response to Original message
2. It probably won't get much media play. Many studies have shown this - they are rarely
highly publicized - but they should be - especially now.
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SteelPenguin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:45 AM
Response to Original message
3. Even people who HAVE insurance
My wife and I have friends who have something like 80k in medical debt.

They have good jobs, they thought they had good health insurance, and were eagerly expecting their first child. Unfortunately there were complications. Without getting into the nitty gritty she was in and out of the hospital for a couple of months in her third trimester, and it was pretty serious, but she made it through ok thanks to the awesome work of her doctors, nurses, and the hospital. Her baby was born premature, and needed to be in the NICU for a good amount of time with his own complications, needing surgery, etc.

When it was all over, they were healthy, and headed home with their new son, and 80k in debt that their insurance didn't cover.

I've heard of people in similar situations (good jobs, good insurance, shit happens) who have 10 times as much medical debt.

Our mutual friends who live in Europe are shocked by this. The idea that someone would go into bankruptcy because they had a bad pregnancy, and their child was born premature....EVEN when they had insurance is shocking to them. Appalling even.

Our system is utterly broken.
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moggie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 08:38 AM
Response to Reply #3
11. Yes, yes we are
Our mutual friends who live in Europe are shocked by this

As a European, no matter how many times I read of bankruptcies caused by medical bills, it never fails to shock me. While our health system isn't perfect, at least that's one thing I don't have to fear. I still don't understand why you guys didn't reach the torches and pitchforks stage about this long ago.
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SteelPenguin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 08:51 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. I blame the Irish
Half-kidding.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_American

http://www.librarything.com/work/7430

I really think alot of the mindset of the American that differs from the European comes from the Scots-Irish immigration to the U.S. Hundreds of thousands came as late immigrants to the colonies, so they had to huff it inland. They ended up doing a solid amount of the colonization of the country.

They were known as quick to fight, devoutly protestant, and extremely libertarian/independent.

Sound like anyone today?

The 'culture' itself founded the base for so many other immigrants that came later, many of whom were escaping here to either practice their religion freely, or to escape the grip of government. The lure of acres of practically free farmland in the middle of nowhere that they could call their own with no interference drew loads.

What does that have to do with universal health care? Well it gets to the root of the American problem having the Borderer Scots as one of our primary cultural basis. The "i got mine you get yours" mentality of people who haven't faced problems. "The system works for me, I don't care about you.". Ayn Randian Objectivism and Libertarianism. What started as a valid rebellion against tyrannical authority became rigid self centeredness and selfishness in the face of democratic moves towards general welfare.

"don't tread on me" became "don't tax me at all for any reason no matter how valid"
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jazzjunkysue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 03:52 PM
Response to Reply #12
19. Interesting. I never knew that. I've seen people from all groups take that stand.
"I'm ahead of you in line, and it's gonna stay that way."

Bush served as a poster boy for these people. He was the most famous unashamed selfish baby ever. The small and selfish felt they weren't so bad, if the president was just like them.

He made childishness acceptable. I really think that's what they mean by the "have a beer with him" statements. He made them feel smart, sophisticated and accepted.

"I'm a jerk, but so's the president."
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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 07:32 AM
Response to Reply #19
25. "Have a beer with him' means "I don't feel intellectually inferior around him/her." Elitist means
"I do feel intellectually and educationally inferior around him/her, maybe morally and ethically, too."

I'll vote for the elitist any day, the smarter, the more ethical, the better.
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jazzjunkysue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 10:41 AM
Response to Reply #25
28. Amen.
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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 06:50 AM
Response to Reply #12
24. So, I'm guessing you're a big fan of Senator
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RaleighNCDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #11
18. We don't ask for perfect. Functional would be just fine.
But the powers that be make too much money on the system as it is, and those who make the decisions will NEVER find themselves bankrupt because of illness. People with ten million dollar salaries can always pay their medical bills, even if their insurance comes up short.
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Bozita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 03:59 PM
Response to Reply #11
20. Thom Hartmann asked the Dutch Home Minister how many Dutch folks went bankrupt over medical charges.
"None!" she answered.

The discussion aired on Thom's show about a month or so ago.

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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:47 AM
Response to Original message
4. You beat me to the post, Robbien. Rec'd.
Edited on Thu Jun-04-09 07:47 AM by raccoon
FYI, this is also on Yahoo news. So hopefully more people will see it.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090604/us_nm/us_healthcare...


On Edit: Oh, and Recd.









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Robbien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:51 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. Good to hear

The only other paper to pick it up so far was the LATimes so I expected this would be a story that the media would bury fast.
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mod mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:47 AM
Response to Original message
5. As a family that incurred over $100,000 in medical bills after a sudden illness
with my husband, who luckily had medical insurance, and a very understanding employer at the time he got sick, I understand what a burden this can be. My husband contracted flesh eating bacteria that almost took his life. One day he was healthy and the next knocking on death's door. It happened so quickly and the doctors didn't know for over a week whether he would live or not. He is an architect who draws for a living and the bacteria took away muscle in his right arm. He underwent 7 surgeries and 2 years of physical rehab. He got sick in November so we had to pay the major medical deductible in November and then again in January. There is enough stress associated w the illness that family members don't deserve to have financial worries to face as well. I would love to have single payer so that families don't have to face these pressures. BTW I have a Masters in Health Administration and have worked in both the non-profit and for profit sectors.
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schmuls Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:54 AM
Response to Original message
7. I'm one of them
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liberal N proud Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:59 AM
Response to Original message
9. And if you are lucky enough to survive to a ripe old age
without the medical bills taking it all, the nursing facility will.

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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 08:13 AM
Response to Original message
10. This has been the case for a LONG time. Not new. nt
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Soylent Brice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 08:58 AM
Response to Original message
13. file under DUH.
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KillCapitalism Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 09:09 AM
Response to Original message
14. Single payer is LONG overdue.
Even little things cost out the wazoo.

I was doing a little work under the hood of the wife's car and cut my hand on something sharp in the engine bay. I had to go and get 6 stitches to close up the cut. They gave me a local anesthetic and the whole procedure took about 30 mintues.

Total cost?

$1,550

Outrageous huh?
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Mermaid7 Donating Member (156 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 09:36 AM
Response to Reply #14
17. that's just nuts
when will the insanity stop?
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SOS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 09:54 AM
Response to Reply #14
26. Re: outrageous cost
In the United States the average cost of an MRI is nearly $2,000.
http://www.bcbs.com/coverage/basics/cost /

In Japan, the cost is, by law, $98.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundthewo...

We pay 20x as much for the exact same service. It's insane.
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BlueJazz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 09:11 AM
Response to Original message
15. My European friends just shake their head when they hear something like this.
I usually hear: "When are you Americans going to bury the Insurance bastards?"

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Vidar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 09:35 AM
Response to Original message
16. As long as it's good for the HMOs, lobbyists & banks.
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jazzjunkysue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 04:00 PM
Response to Original message
21. We seem to think we deserve this neglect and abuse.
Getting rich on someone's tragedy (illness) is honorable. (Insurance companies)

It's almost like we're still in the gold rush land-grab phase of development as a country.

Anything that slows you down gives me a better advantage. I'll get ahead!

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Wednesdays Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 07:56 PM
Response to Original message
22. No! No! No! It's caused by lack of personal responsibility!
:sarcasm: :puke:
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SOS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 10:30 AM
Response to Reply #22
27. Ah yes, the old "personal responsibility" canard propagated by creditors
Edited on Fri Jun-05-09 10:33 AM by SOS
Elizabeth Warren has been illuminating the truth on personal bankruptcy for some time now.

90% of all personal bankruptcies in the US are caused by four conditions:

Medical bills (62%)
Death of spouse
Loss of job
divorce


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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 05:04 AM
Response to Original message
23. PNHP press release
Illness and medical bills linked to nearly two-thirds of all bankruptcies

Harvard study finds 50 percent increase from 2001

Most of those bankrupted by illness were middle class and had insurance

Medical problems contributed to nearly two-thirds (62.1 percent) of all bankruptcies in 2007, according to a study in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine that will be published online Thursday. The data were collected prior to the current economic downturn and hence likely understate the current burden of financial suffering. Between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6 percent. The authors' previous 2001 findings have been widely cited by policy leaders, including President Obama.

Surprisingly, most of those bankrupted by medical problems had health insurance. More than three-quarters (77.9 percent) were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness, including 60.3 percent who had private coverage. Most of the medically bankrupt were solidly middle class before financial disaster hit. Two-thirds were homeowners and three-fifths had gone to college. In many cases, high medical bills coincided with a loss of income as illness forced breadwinners to lose time from work. Often illness led to job loss, and with it the loss of health insurance.

Even apparently well-insured families often faced high out-of-pocket medical costs for co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services. Medically bankrupt families with private insurance reported medical bills that averaged $17,749 vs. $26,971 for the uninsured. High costs - averaging $22,568 - were incurred by those who initially had private coverage but lost it in the course of their illness.

Individuals with diabetes and those with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis had the highest costs, an average of $26,971 and $34,167 respectively. Hospital bills were the largest single expense for about half of all medically bankrupt families; prescription drugs were the largest expense for 18.6 percent.

The research, carried out jointly by researchers at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University, and supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is the first nationwide study on medical causes of bankruptcy. The researchers surveyed a random sample of 2,314 bankruptcy filers during early 2007 and examined their bankruptcy court records. In addition, they conducted extensive telephone interviews with 1,032 of these bankruptcy filers.

Their 2001 study, which was published in 2005, surveyed debtors in only five states. In the current study, findings for those five states closely mirrored the national trends.

Subsequent to the 2001 study, Congress made it harder to file for bankruptcy, causing a sharp drop in filings. However, personal bankruptcy filings have soared as the economy has soured and are now back to the 2001 level of about 1.5 million annually.

Dr. David Himmelstein, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, commented: "Our findings are frightening. Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection. Most of us have policies with so many loopholes, co-payments and deductibles that illness can put you in the poorhouse. And even the best job-based health insurance often vanishes when prolonged illness causes job loss - precisely when families need it most. Private health insurance is a defective product, akin to an umbrella that melts in the rain."

"For many families, bankruptcy is a deeply shameful experience," noted Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard and a study co-author. Professor Warren, a leading expert on personal bankruptcy, went on: "People arrive at the bankruptcy courts exhausted - financially, physically and emotionally. For most, bankruptcy is a last choice to deal with unmanageable circumstances."

According to study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard and primary care physician in Cambridge, Mass.: "We need to rethink health reform. Covering the uninsured isn't enough. Reform also needs to help families who already have insurance by upgrading their coverage and assuring that they never lose it. Only single-payer national health insurance can make universal, comprehensive coverage affordable by saving the hundreds of billions we now waste on insurance overhead and bureaucracy. Unfortunately, Washington politicians seem ready to cave in to insurance firms and keep them and their counterfeit coverage at the core of our system. Reforms that expand phony insurance - stripped-down plans riddled with co-payments, deductibles and exclusions - won't stem the rising tide of medical bankruptcy."

Dr. Deborah Thorne, associate professor of sociology at Ohio University and study co-author, stated: "American families are confronting a panoply of social forces that make it terribly difficult to maintain financial stability - job losses and wages that have not kept pace with the cost of living, exploitation from the various lending industries, and, probably most consequential and disgraceful, a health care system that is so dysfunctional that even the most mundane illness or injury can result in bankruptcy. Families who file medical bankruptcies are overwhelmingly hard-working, middle-class families who have played by the rules of our economic system, and they deserve nothing less than affordable health care."

*****

A copy of the study is available at http://www.pnhp.org/new_bankruptcy_study or through the American Journal of Medicine, ajmmedia@elsevier.com, (212) 633-3944. The authors have also prepared a supplementary "Fact Sheet" and a "Q&A" on medical bankruptcy, both of which detail the study's methods and findings. See same link above.

"Medical bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a national study," David U. Himmelstein, M.D; Deborah Thorne, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Warren, J.D.; Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H. American Journal of Medicine, June 4, 2009 (online).

Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org ), a membership organization of over 16,000 physicians, supports a single-payer national health insurance program. To contact a physician-spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or call (312) 782-6006.

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OKNancy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 11:35 AM
Response to Original message
29. kick
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clear eye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Original message
30. Illness, medical bills linked to nearly two-thirds of bankruptcies: Harvard study
Source: PNHP RESOURCES Press Release (EMBARGOED until: June 4, 2009, 12:01 a.m. EDT)

Medical problems contributed to nearly two-thirds (62.1 percent) of all bankruptcies in 2007, according to a study in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine that will be published online Thursday. The data were collected prior to the current economic downturn and hence likely understate the current burden of financial suffering. Between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6 percent. The authors previous 2001 findings have been widely cited by policy leaders, including President Obama.

Surprisingly, most of those bankrupted by medical problems had health insurance. More than three-quarters (77.9 percent) were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness, including 60.3 percent who had private coverage. Most of the medically bankrupt were solidly middle class before financial disaster hit. Two-thirds were homeowners and three-fifths had gone to college. In many cases, high medical bills coincided with a loss of income as illness forced breadwinners to lose time from work. Often illness led to job loss, and with it the loss of health insurance.

Read more: http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/june/illness_medical_bil....



Make sure Congress hears about this, again and again and again. Enough is enough.
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mbperrin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
31. Yes, please get the word out. My dad died in the early 90s with health
coverage. The limit ran out in a year, and when he finally died two years later, he owed nearly a million. Lost savings, the house, a lifetime of work.

We need single payer. Right now.
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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
32. The system is rigged to fail exactly when you need it the most.
The first thing that happens when you're ill is that you stop working.

Which eventually leads to loss of job.

Which leads to loss of insurance coverage.

Which leads to enormous un-payable medical bills.

Which leads to bankruptcy.

Which is why it is stupid to link health coverage to employment.

Which is why employers should have no business acting as insurance middlemen.

Which is why we need universal health coverage that doesn't bail on us just when we need it.




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wolfgangmo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #32
33. Pie in the sky. Ain't gonna happen.
And do you know why. Because no one hates Americans as much as other americans. We don't want the other guy to have coverage. We especially don't want it if that person is from another neighborhood, race, economic class, or whatever.

As a whole we just don't give a shit as long as we got ours.


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Raster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #32
39. The system is rigged, PERIOD! It is "for-profit," with the emphasis on the "profit."
In insurance managed healthcare, the goal is to treat the patient as little as possible, and if treatment is necessary, to pay as little as possible to providers and shunt the balance of the cost to the "insured." Managed healthcare in America is a textbook example of a parasitical relationship with a predatory entity.
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Bozita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
34. Thom Hartmann asked the Dutch Home Minister how many Dutch folks went bankrupt over medical charges.
"None!" she answered.

The discussion aired on Thom's show about a month or so ago.
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
35. That was the case with my brother. nt
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noiretextatique Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
36. where is that person who didn't believe people go broke because of medical expenses
hopefully not tombstoned yet. i really hope s/he sees these threads.
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Lorien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
37. Say it again and again; health care is an ECONOMIC issue
if the greed crazed in this country don't give a damn about human life, then point out that our economy would be in far better shape if so many Americans weren't bankrupted by medical bills. Minor surgery and two trips to the ER wiped out my life savings-and I HAD insurance. It can happen to almost anyone. SINGLE PAYER NOW!
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Botany Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
38. Single Payer National Health Care
We have to take the insurance companies out of system.
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clear eye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 12:59 PM
Response to Original message
40. K&R for importance n/t
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-05-09 01:37 PM
Response to Original message
41. Too late to R, so just K
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