The Affordable Care Act: Easing the Stress of Post-Divorce Health Insurance
By Nancy Bickford
The ending of a marriage is always hard. Of course, there’s the emotional trauma, but then there’s also many practical matters to deal with. Spouses must sort out their finances, their home, custody and visitation of children, and obtaining individual health insurance (just to name a few). The health insurance issue has historically been difficult for women, especially those who stay at home or have jobs that don’t provide insurance. According to a University of Michigan study, over 100,000 women lose their health insurance in divorces each year, yet even if they qualify for post-divorce COBRA benefits under their ex- spouse’s plan, it’s often too expensive. However, the Affordable Care Act, argues Elizabeth O’Brien in her Wall Street Journal article, might ease the stress of post-divorce health insurance issues.
Post-divorce health insurance concerns have particularly affected women involved in gray divorces (couples divorcing after the age of 50). Gray divorces are on the rise, and women in this age group often aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare, yet they also have pre-existing conditions. Now with the government subsidies making healthcare affordable and available to anyone despite pre-existing conditions, health care costs become less of a stressful factor in divorces.
Health insurance, however, is not the only health-related matter that needs to be taken into consideration during the wake of a divorce, especially for those divorcing later in life. O’Brien’s article lists some other important factors to consider:
Insurance premiums: It’s a good idea to obtain a temporary court order at the beginning of divorce proceedings that ensures all insurance premiums get paid as usual during the proceedings. This includes health insurance, life insurance and long-term-care insurance.
Lost future caregiving:. When two parties divorce, both lose the possibility of cost-effective future caregiving by the other spouse. This often unrealized consequence of divorce can be addressed by the parties in a Marital Settlement Agreement.
Long-term-care coverage: If a couple shares long-term-care insurance, they need to look into what happens to their coverage following a divorce. Some plans have a “shared care” rider, which allows one spouse to tap into the other’s benefit pool. If that’s the case, it’s important to drop that rider if that is consistent with the parties’ overall settlement agreement.
Power of attorney: If your ex has been named as your health-care power of attorney—the person you have appointed to make health care decisions for you when you’re no longer able— it’s important to consider whether to appoint a new power of attorney in the wake of divorce.
Sometimes we forget, in the midst of so many emotions and financial concerns, about the importance of making sure all of our post-divorce health-related needs will be met.
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