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Report: Medical Crisis Tied to Foreclosure Crisis

October 13, 2008

Columbus, OH – Unscrupulous lenders and uninformed buyers seem to be the scapegoats for the nation's mortgage meltdown, blamed for the spike in home foreclosures in Ohio and around the country. However, a new Harvard study suggests there are other factors as well.

Almost half of the study respondents said their foreclosure situations were caused, at least in part, by a medical problem. Cathy Levine, co-chair of the group Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, notes that people are incurring more, and higher, medical bills - even when they have health insurance.

"Many people think they're adequately insured until they get sick or injured - and then they find out about the loopholes in their insurance."

And study author Christopher Robertson points out that it's not just medical bills busting family budgets. There also are the consequences of lost work from illness, or time spent caring for an ailing family member.

"Even people who have decent jobs, who have reasonable incomes compared to their mortgages - when a medical crisis hits them, it can push them over the edge."

Levine believes the national focus on the economic crisis should include more stringent regulations, for both the banking and health care industries. Her coalition has launched a "Fix it Now" campaign to encourage lawmakers to act more quickly on healthcare reform.

"This study demonstrates that, if consumers are going to have housing and financial security, we also need to pay attention to fixing health care."

Only one-third of the Harvard survey respondents said so-called balloon payments that increased their housing costs had been a factor in their defaults. Robertson says four states were selected for the survey, seen as representing a good national cross-section: California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey. The full report is online, at
Information about the "Fix It Now" campaign is also available online, at

Mary Kuhlman/Steve Powers, Public News Service - OH