The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

We’re All 1 Serious Illness Away from Financial Hardship

Seal of the United States bankruptcy court. Ch...
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If you are an American who has health insurance, one would hope that you wouldn’t lose all financial security over one minor illness, right?

Since this blog is for those with illness, the odds are that you already know this isn’t true. In fact, Dr. Deborah Thorne, Professor of Sociology at Ohio University and co-author of a study by Harvard on bankruptcies, believes that our health system “…is so dysfunctional that even the most mundane illness or injury can result in bankruptcy.”

I know many of you are suffering from financial hardships right now that some of us cannot even fathom. I am so sorry that for some reason God has allowed you to experience this battle.  But know that you are not alone and if you have been forced to declare bankruptcy because of your illness, it’s not something you’ve likely had much control over. It’s easy to feel guilty… but know that you are experiencing something many families all over the country are facing too.

This new Harvard study has shown that middle class families (who have health insurance) are being forced to declare bankruptcy more often.. and it’s because of just one serious medical illness.

The Harvard researchers began their study by surveying random debtors of 2,314 bankruptcy filings during early 2007 — before the actual recession hit, so actual figures today are likely worse.

The researchers found:

  • 25% of insurance firms cancel coverage immediately when an employee suffers a serious, disabling illness and another an other quarter cancel coverage within a year.
  • Two-thirds of all bankruptcies in 2007 were caused by medical problems.
  • The rise in medical bankruptcies accounts for a nearly 50 percent of the increase in bankruptcies attributable to medical problems, since 2001.
  • Shockingly, more than three-quarters of the debtors were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness, including 60.3 percent who held private coverage.
  • Two-thirds of the debtors were homeowners and three-fifths had college educations.

The researchers have concluded from their study, that the current employer based system of private health insurance in our country is seriously flawed and needs to be scrapped and replaced with a national single payer system.

The average family that declared bankruptcy were your typical middles class people who were “living the American dream.” And then illness hit and insurance wasn’t enough.


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  Pamela Roberts MD wrote @

Greetings Lisa,
This is a sobering article, at a time when we are headed into perhaps the worst recession ever, our government AND spending are incomprehensibely out of control, and more and more healthcare providers are refusing to care for chronic pain patients!
Are you aware that a bill is before the U.S. Senate
( S. B. 660-National Pain Care Policy Act of 2009) that would: 1) convene an Institue of Medicine conference on pain care
2) expand NIH pain research
3) expand pain care training via educational grants
4) public ad campaign Pam Roberts MD

  Ron Stone wrote @

I don’t believe scrapping employer based health insurance so we can go to a government based system is the answer. We need to fix the flaws (and there are many) in the existing system instead. The government Never manages anything better than private industry. Let’s fix the existing system instead.

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