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Report: NH Foreclosures are a “Sickness”

October 29, 2008

Concord, NH – Get sick and lose your house: A study of mortgage foreclosures across the country shows that almost half of those who have lost their homes blame medical bills for their misfortune.

Foreclosures in New Hampshire were up 70 percent last month, according to real estate industry tracking. Christopher Robertson at Harvard University says his team interviewed people who had lost their homes, and found that even when people had taken subprime loans, they could still make payments until medical bills interfered.

"One really interesting problem we observed was that people are taking on more debt, as they own the house, in order to pay their medical bills."

Previous studies have tied foreclosures to subprime loans, but had not assessed the role that unexpected high medical bills play in getting behind on house payments.

New Hampshire social worker Steve Gorin has been promoting the need for health care reform for years, after seeing how rising costs, even for those with insurance, have been ruining family assets.

"I'm hopeful that with the change of administration, one way or another, and with other races across the country, we'll finally be able to provide affordable health care coverage to people that need it."

Another Harvard study found that one of every two bankruptcies in the U.S. is because of medical bills. Robertson says health care reform needs to be part of the national debate about rescuing the economy

"Because this fits into the broader picture we're seeing of financial insecurity and medical crises, I think action on this issue is appropriate."

About 2,400 homes have been lost to foreclosure in New Hampshire so far this year. During all of 2005, only 452 mortgages were foreclosed.

Deborah Smith/Steve Powers, Public News Service - NH