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Study: Divorcing women risk losing health care coverage

Here's something that may interest our Philadelphia readers. According to a recent study by researchers at a Midwestern university, every year, approximately 115,000 women in the United States lose their health insurance after a divorce. According to the experts, this loss is caused by the divorce. The study was based on national data collected from 1996 to 2007.

What the researchers found is that many women are covered by their husband's health insurance and wind up losing that coverage because they are no longer a dependant on the plan after divorce. As a result, about 65,000 women a year end up losing all health coverage within a few months of the dissolution. Further, nearly 25 percent of women who were insured while married are not insured six months after their divorce. Unfortunately, despite facing financial difficulty, divorced women may not be eligible for Medicaid or other government-sponsored health insurance.

Women from middle-income families are the most negatively affected income group after a divorce. They are more likely to lose insurance coverage than higher-income women and may not qualify for lower-income public insurance. Education and employment can help secure their financial future, but not all jobs offer health coverage. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 could improve this situation but it won't fully go into effect until 2014.

The findings of this study demonstrate the need for a full accounting of all financial issues as part of equitable property division and settlement of assets during a divorce. That includes healthcare coverage. A divorcing spouse may choose to file for alimony or spousal support as part of the process and some accommodation for healthcare coverage may be necessary, too.

The scope of issues that may need to be addressed are such that having experienced legal counsel is crucial.

Source: U.S.News & World Report, "Divorce Puts Women at Risk of Losing Health Insurance, Study Finds," HealthDay, Nov. 16, 2012

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