Medical causes and consequences of home foreclosures

Christina A. Cutshaw, Steffie Woolhandler, David U. Himmelstein, Christopher Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to elucidate the medical causes and consequences of foreclosure. We surveyed 90 households undergoing foreclosure in 2013-2014 in Maricopa County, Arizona on two occasions approximately five months apart. At baseline, median monthly household income was $3,000, and median mortgage payment $1,350. Only 10% of respondents lacked health insurance when surveyed, although 28% had experienced a gap in coverage within the past two years. Fifty-seven percent identified a medical debt or another medical cause of their foreclosure, and 54% had taken on new debt to pay medical bills; 10% had mortgaged their home for this reason. Although 57% of respondents had a chronic condition requiring ongoing care, more than half reported delaying or skipping a needed medical visit. At follow-up, one-third of respondents had been unable to afford food, and 3 respondents reported becoming homeless; 46% said foreclosure had worsened their health; and 63% had already incurred new medical debts. Medical debt and medical problems frequently contribute to foreclosure, even among insured families. Foreclosure compromises access to care and basic necessities like food and shelter, and worsens self-reported health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-47
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2016


  • Chronic disease
  • Home foreclosure
  • Housing
  • Medical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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