Reader Mark writes:
Russ is right about the role of credit cards, in my limited experience with people going bankrupt. Those with high medical bills have used credit cards to both pay the bills and maintain a good portion of their lifestyle. From which I make three observations: First, it's at least as much the credit card charges that put them under. Second, it's the credit card issuer(s), not just the household, that bears the ultimate loss in a "medical bankruptcy" - the household gets discharged, after all. Presumably the cc issuers price it into the rates they charge us all, so credit cards function as a kind of insurance, if not optimal (but then neither is Medicare optimal as a kind of insurance). Third, the claim this study makes of "medical impoverishment" is overstated in my view because the bankrupts I've known closely have all managed to maintain at least most if not all of their lifestyle despite mounting medical bills, through use of credit.