They went to school on federally-backed student loans and have now defaulted on them to the tune of $111.5 million dollars. That means taxpayers are on the hook for that money.
895 doctors nationwide are currently in default on Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL) given to aspiring medical professionals over a 20 year period between 1978 and 1998. The list is very public and is updated quarterly.
There are 79 Florida doctors on the HEAL defaulted borrows list who owe a combined $11.5 million dollars alone. 18 of them reside in the Tampa Bay area.
Eight on Your Side tracked down one of them. A Tampa Chiropractor named Dr. Adam Willis who lives in Safety Harbor. He owes $19,038 in HEAL loans after attending Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, IA. He graduated in 1992. He told me, quite simply, "I just haven't been able to make the payments on it."
Clearly, he is not alone. Also on the default list, Brian M. Feinman from Tampa who attended Barry University in Miami Shores to become a podiatrist. Feinman racked up a whopping $467,000 in student loans that the government says he has not paid back. His Florida medical license expired in 2006.
Jorge Martinez of Clearwater racked up nearly $337,000 in student loans as he was studying to become a doctor of allopathic medicine at the Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico. We were unable to track down his Florida medical license information.
Dr. Craig Newman of Tampa is the former President of the Florida Chiropractic Association.
He is appalled at the number of doctors who borrowed money to get their medical degrees and are now leaving taxpayers on the hook for paying it back. "I think it's horrendous. They all should be paying the price for their education. They took the money they owe it."
Many of the Florida doctors on the list have had their medical licenses either revoked or suspended for defaulting on their loans. However, Dr. Willis is still working as a chiropractor, part time, he says, for someone in Tampa. We checked with the state and his medical license is still active.
Dr. Willis has not struck a deal to pay the money back. If a payment plan is arranged and approved the doctors name gets removed from the HEAL default list.
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