A survey of Massachusetts residents who filed for bankruptcy in July 2009 found that 53 percent cited a medical cause, down from 59 percent who blamed a medical cause in a survey done in early 2007, before the state law had been fully implemented. But because of the small number of people surveyed, the difference was not statistically significant, according to the study in today's American Journal of Medicine.
"People think they have reasonable insurance until they try and use it," Himmelstein said. "You are carrying an umbrella and it starts to rain and you put it up and it's full of holes. For most people, it just hasn’t rained yet."
Himmelstein, who conducted the research while working as an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization that pushes for national health insurance.
He said his findings suggest that the national health overhaul, which was largely modeled on the Massachusetts law and will take full effect in 2014, will not ease the number of medical bankruptcies, either.