Home > Students > Government Shames Doctors Who Haven’t Paid Their Student Loans

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Nothing good comes of defaulting on your student loans, but people who don’t repay Health Education Assistance Loans get special treatment: public humiliation.

The Department of Education released its latest edition of the deadbeat doctors, a 25-page list of defaulted borrowers, the city they live in, their discipline (medical doctor, dentist, podiatrist, etc.) and their unpaid loan balance. The outstanding amount for the 846 borrowers on the list totals roughly $106 million. Many of the debtors have six-figure balances, and one dentist is listed as having more than $900,000 in defaulted student loans.

The HEAL Program insured loans to graduate students studying health or medical-related fields from fiscal year 1978 through fiscal year 1998. Such disciplines included medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, podiatry, public health, pharmacy, chiropractic, or programs in health administration and clinical psychology.

A section of the Public Health Service Act requires “the names of Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Program borrowers in default on their loans are published in the Federal Register,” says a section on the Education Department’s website. The result: a shame list of health professionals with a lot of unpaid debt.

Like other federal student loan borrowers, these doctors and dentists (we’ve written about dentists’ debt before, their education bills can be quite large) are subject to the government seizing their tax refunds, revoking Medicare access and garnishing wages. Medical and dental schools are extremely expensive, and not every doctor makes tons of money, but a team from ABC News tracked down some of the debtors, many of whom seem to serve high-income areas. You have to wonder how health professionals who graduated years ago could have so much outstanding debt and still successfully practice.

That being said, the list doesn’t offer the context of these people’s debt, and having any kind of defaulted debt is a burden for consumers. Loan delinquency and default will seriously damage your credit scores, making it difficult to access credit or affordable loan terms. You can see how your student loans are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

If you have borrowed money to finance your education, repaying those loans should be among your top financial priorities, because unlike other forms of consumer debt, student loans are generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Education debt will follow you forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t modify your repayment situation. Before you fall behind on student loan payments, explore your repayment options and see if you can avoid default and make your payments more affordable.

More on Student Loans:

Image: Ingram Publishing

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