Divorce presents a variety of financial risks for women, but the loss of private health insurance is among the most serious. New information from academic studies indicates that more than 100,000 women lose at least some of their private insurance after a break-up, a problem that has wide-reaching implications. Those same women take nearly two years to recover their previous insurance level. Most of these women receive insurance benefits through their husbands, and that coverage lapses after a divorce.
The study, performed by researchers from the University of Michigan, shows that about 10 percent of divorcing women face unstable healthcare situations after a split. Among those that lose benefits, nearly 70,000 lose their health insurance altogether during their divorces. This is primarily caused by changed dependent status and an inability to pay expensive independent insurance premiums, according to experts.
Women are more vulnerable to health insurance loss because most receive benefits through their partner's employer. Even those women who are insured through their own employer may find that the premiums are too high. For those women who are unemployed or who work part-time, this can be an even more acute problem, because the cost of independently purchased health insurance can be sky-high. Although working full-time and attaining higher education can provide a buffer for some women, those factors do not guarantee continued health insurance.
Experts say recent legislation may improve the plight of this forgotten population. The women, many of whom have dependent children, should benefit from the Affordable Care Act. That law, passed by the Obama administration, strives to provide affordable healthcare options to all Americans, including divorcees. Still, divorced women may have a long time to wait before those benefits are available. The ACA provisions do not take full effect until 2014.
In the meantime, divorcees can improve their healthcare situation by requesting spousal support related to insurance. Alimony and child support payments may be allocated toward insurance, especially if that line item is stated as part of a lifestyle analysis before the divorce is finalized.
Source: U.S. News, "Divorce puts women at risk of losing health insurance, study finds," Nov. 16, 2012