Friday, October 7, 2011

Foreclosures and health

Foreclosures are bad not only for a person’s financial health but also for that person’s physical and mental health. Survey data indicate that over 30% of people who had experienced a foreclosure subsequently skipped medical appointments, almost 50% did not fill prescriptions, and more than a third suffered from a major depression. More than 10% suffered a major episode of anxiety; suicide ideation, based on anecdotal evidence from therapists, had also increased significantly.

These physical and mental consequences of foreclosure obviously harm the individual experiencing them. The consequences, however, also cost taxpayers and those with private health insurance large sums because these people ultimately foot the bill for the healthcare that the indigent receive but cannot afford.

Those statistics make for grim reading. Now for the really bad information: 2.9 million U.S. homeowners experienced foreclosure in 2010 and 1.2 million in the first half of 2011. Data from July and August suggest that the trend has begun to worsen rather than continue to improve.

Concurrently, reports about loan modification programs show that substantially fewer than one hundred thousand homeowners have benefitted from those programs. In other words, unless the government takes decisive steps now, problems are likely to worsen, which will cost taxpayers and those with health insurers even more in the future.

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