U.S. names doctors behind on student loans

August 31, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

In an unusual effort to pressure medical professionals into paying overdue student loans, federal officials yesterday released the names of nearly 5,000 doctors, dentists and other health workers who have defaulted on more than $228 million in government loans.

The list included 125 health professionals in Maryland, nine of whom owed more than $100,000. The largest Maryland debt was $203,426.

The names -- including physicians, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, chiropractors, pharmacists and graduate students in public health and psychology -- will be turned over to the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Justice Department for collection, said a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, whose department administers the loans to students entering health care fields.

Borrowers whose repayments are overdue will be barred from receiving reimbursement for Medicaid and Medicare patients they treat.

Ms. Shalala ordered the debtors' names and the amounts they owe printed in yesterday's Federal Register, a widely read publication that contains information on new federal regulations and contract awards. The move represented a change in the government's adherence to its own privacy rules, which until now have required that loan recipients' names be kept confidential.

"We want to get the taxpayers' dollars back," said Patricia Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the federal Health Education Assistance Loan, or HEAL, program. "Basically, we're embarrassing them."

Ms. Campbell said those on the list were repeatedly asked to pay before their names were referred to collection agencies and credit bureaus. State court judgments had also been obtained against them by banks and other private agencies that write the loans, she said.

"We're talking about real deadbeats here," Ms. Campbell said.

One Maryland doctor with a $123,145 debt was erroneously placed on the list, according to his wife, who said the government is allowing him to postpone payments until he completes his training as a critical care physician.

"He has been placed in the deferment category," said Shelly Figaro, whose husband, Dr. Kelson M. Figaro of Bowie graduated from the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk in 1989. She said the government initially claimed he failed to file the proper paperwork for the deferment, but the dispute was cleared up a year ago.

Dr. Bruce R. Wiley, a Baltimore dentist listed as owing $136,278, refused to comment. The Sun was unable to reach seven other health professionals in default for more than $100,000.

Dr. Maureen de la Cruz, a Bethesda dentist who owes $93,279, said she fell into default several years ago when a disability forced her to give up her practice. She said she cannot begin to deal with the loan until she settles her tax liability with the Internal Revenue Service.

"Some of the people [on the list] may be driving around in Mercedes, but there are some of us where that's just not the case," said Dr. de la Cruz, 43. "As my doctor said, 'You can't get blood from a stone.' "

Unpaid loan balances ranged nationally from a few hundred dollars to more than $272,000. The average was about $45,000.

DOCTORS IN DEFAULT

Maryland Health Education Assistance Loan program defaulters listed in the Federal Register.

Name, latest residence .......... .......... Total HEAL debt

PHYSICIANS

Archer, Beverly, L., Gaithersburg .............. $70,263.96

Awh, Carl, C., Baltimore ........ ............... $2,690.08

Bialek, Barry, B., Bethesda ..... ............. $203,426.33

Bivins, Anthony, D., Greenbelt .. .............. $48,043.76

Briggs, Nathaniel, C., Rockville .................. $805.45

Brooks, Jacinth, E., Silver Spring ............. $15,088.15

Brusa, John, M., Baltimore ...... ............... $2,890.90

Burney, Dawn, W., Baltimore ..... .............. $55,350.00

Burt, Hugh, A., Silver Spring ... .............. $54,278.33

Cain, Alicia, R., Silver Spring.. ............... $2,887.54

Carter, Kenneth, O., Baltimore .. ............... $8,708.72

Chesley, Francis, D., Gaithersburg ............ $106,118.96

Cooper Jr., John, D., Rockville ................. $2,147.03

Crarey, Patrick, E., Upper Marlboro ............ $57,816.87

Crawford, Robin, A., Laurel ..... ............... $2,703.57

Cuffy, Lewis, Takoma Park ....... .............. $49,724.91

Cummings, Phillip, B., Hyattsville .............. $6,705.74

Daniels, Fernando, Upper Marlboro .............. $27,093.66

Douglass, Eric, L., Towson ...... .............. $45,378.72

Farr, Stephany, D., Burtonsville ................ $5,020.32

Figaro, Kelson, M., Bowie ....... ............. $123,145.15

Finucane, Charity, M., Bethesda ................ $72,757.29

Freeland, Carole, A., Baltimore ................ $51,331.71

Greene, Leroy, C., Adelphi ...... .............. $14,197.58

Halls, Lydia, Gaithersburg ...... ............... $8,702.30

Hill, Leo, D., Cheverly ......... .............. $14,780.47

Hogan, John, W., Fort Washington .................. $488.16

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