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Thousands of women lose health insurance after divorce

For nearly 65,000 women every year, the end of their marriage means the end of their health insurance coverage. And it may take as long as two years before they can get replacement insurance, if they can manage it at all. Loss of coverage is one aspect of divorce that may get lost in the scramble for child custody and equitable distribution of assets.

The University of Michigan's new study found that women who are no longer covered as a dependent under their husband's policy often can't afford replacement policies on their own. Even if their financial circumstances have been diminished by the divorce, few qualify for Medicaid or other publically provided insurance. Even women with jobs are at risk of going uninsured. The added financial pressure of managing a family alone can make the employee contribution to employer-sponsored plans unaffordable.

The number of uninsured divorced women is highest in the low to middle-class sectors of the economy. They are too poor to pay $1,000 a month or more for private insurance but not poor enough for public assistance. Full-time work with benefits, of course, is the best way to stay insured, but many employers are turning to part-time employees with limited or no benefits to fill positions formerly held by full-timers.

The federal Affordable Care Act, when it takes full effect in 2014, may substantially alleviate the crisis faced by uninsured divorced women. But the rules and regulations that make the law effective are still being written and individual states still must set up their individual coverage plans. Until then, there is little these uninsured women, and the children who depend on them, can do to get the coverage they need.

Source: Science Codex, "Divorce costs thousands of women health insurance coverage," Nov. 12, 2012

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