Friday, February 09, 2007

Home Sick: How Medical Debt Undermines Housing Security

A report by The Access Project shows that medical debt affects people's ability to acquire or maintain housing. Among the key findings:

The survey shows important connections between medical debt and significant financial hardships:

Housing problems were common

More than one-quarter of respondents with debt said housing problems resulted from the debt. Problems included:

• the inability to qualify for a mortgage
• the inability to make rent or mortgage payments
• being turned down from renting a home
• being forced to move to less expensive housing.

In addition, some people said they have been evicted or were now homeless because of medical debt.

These findings establish medical debt as a barrier to important elements of economic advancement, namely asset development and housing security. Respondents in all racial and ethnic categories, as well as all income categories captured in the survey, were substantially affected.

Bad credit was a frequent result of medical debt

Our survey found that most people did not know whether their medical debt was on their credit reports, but of those who did know, three in five said it had damaged their credit. Damaged credit affects people's ability to secure a mortgage or to rent an apartment. It may also be a barrier to employment and auto or home insurance, and has other repercussions as well. The effects of damaged credit linger: a delinquent account can remain on a credit report for seven years.

To see the full report, click on the headline above.

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