More than 300 health care providers who received Health Education Assistance Loans made no payments during 2008, despite having earned income that year, according to a new report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
These 312 HEAL defaulters earned $13.4 million and owed $47.5 million on their loans in FY 2008. Ninety-eight of these defaulters (31 percent) earned $50,000 or more. These 98 defaulters were responsible for nearly $15 million of the $47.5 million owed.
The program, known by the acronym HEAL, provided federal insurance for educational loans made by private lenders to more than 156,000 graduate health professions students between 1978 and 1998. Loans were available to students in schools of medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, podiatry, public health, pharmacy, chiropractic, health administration or clinical psychology.
The names of borrowers who are in default on their loans are published online in a searchable database quarterly. Information available includes the borrower’s name, discipline, state, amount due, school and date of graduation or separation.
The site says it lists borrowers who:
- had one or more default claims paid by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS);
- been excluded from the Medicare program as a result of his or her HEAL default; and
- not had the Medicare exclusion stayed, or lifted, by the Office of Inspector General as a result of entering a settlement agreement.
The site says it was last updated in November 2009, so reporters will need to verify any information found on the site. But it could be a starting place for stories about local health care providers.