Harvard Law School Professor and bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary today about her research linking rising healthcare costs to increasing bankruptcy rates among the middle-class.

“The current system for paying for medical care is bankrupting hard-working, middle class families,” said Warren in her written testimony. “Since 2000, an estimated five million families have filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of serious medical problems. The current health care finance system is bankrupting hard-working, play-by-the-rules American families.”

Medical-related bankruptcy can be the result of the primary wage earner, spouse, child, or even an elderly relative requiring care. In order to pay medical bills, Warren said families are going deeper into debt, taking out second or third mortgages on their homes and increasing their use of high interest credit cards. Loss of wages due to a medical problem in the family also contributes to medical-related debt.

A leading bankruptcy expert and consumer protection advocate, Warren is frequently called upon to speak about the financial issues facing Americans today. She is a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, which provides recommendations on initiatives focused on expanding access to banking services for underserved populations.

Warren has recently advocated for the creation of a Financial Product Safety Commission to protect consumers against risky financial products. Her proposal has been published in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas as well as the Dallas Morning News, and has influenced the policy agenda of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

The Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law, Warren is the author of “All Your Worth: the Lifetime Money Plan” and “The Two Income Trap: Why Middle Class Mothers and Fathers are going Broke.”