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Congressional Hearing on Medical Bankruptcies (July 28, 2009)

posted by John Pottow

Last week I joined the Credit Slips custom of presenting testimony to Congress on bankruptcy matters. (My written testimony has apparently been posted here.) This outing was before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Administrative and Commercial Law. The hearing was Tuesday, July 28, and was on the subject whether the U.S. healthcare system is bankrupting Americans. (If anyone is more computer-savvy they can post a link; I couldn't find one readily.)

The hearing centered on the CBP study on medical bankruptcies (presented by Dr. Steffie Woolhandler), and had an American Enterprise Institute critic sent to perform a targeted (and at a couple times downright snarky) methodological attack. The tireless Elizabeth Edwards was there too, making her well reasoned and impassioned arguments to the subcommittee and to the racous audience (which included, among others, Dr. Patch Adams). My own testimony reported some findings on rising elder Americans filing for medical bankruptcy but also explained how to distnguish good from bad studies trying to measure medical bankruptcies -- for example, cautioning skepticism with any study that purports to distinguish medical "vs." credit card debt(!). At one point, the hearing got really nerdy and we got into a tiff over the relevance of linear regressions as either necessary or sufficient for causal inference.  (Best line: "I teach linear regressions!") Anyway, it was the usual legislative theater, but I also think some points hit home.

Comments

Awesome. Keep up the good work. We definitely need it out here. Even if these med bills don't ever show up (debtors are actually paying them) the cost is still exacting a toll on other areas. People without insurance don't make it to the doctor for prevention or even post-illness, they let it go until it gets so bad that they have to make that trip to the ER which results in a ridiculous bill. That has put a huge toll on production.

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