When you make the decision to separate from your spouse, the first things that come to mind about the change may be personal: Your children may end up living with their other parent, and even if they live with you, you’ll see them less if your spouse has visitation rights. You might also think about your home, whether you’re moving out of it or filling the space left behind by your departing spouse’s move.
Financial concerns are often secondary. As you proceed through your divorce, you’ll start considering the probable loss of household income, assuming your spouse earns a living. In return, you might gain alimony or child support, if you’ll have custody. Further down the line is the less tangible loss of health insurance, especially for many women. You may not feel this loss immediately, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about it before your divorce is finalized.
A new study has found that 65,000 women lose their insurance every year in the process of divorce. Within six months of the official end of their marriages, 17 percent become uninsured. Many more go from a private insurance plan to Medicaid or another public plan. This is especially true for women who were covered under their husband’s health plan. Twenty-three percent of these women lost that insurance within six months without obtaining coverage under a new plan.
Many women become stuck in the middle, unfortunately. They may earn too high an income to be eligible for Medicaid but they can’t afford a private insurance company policy.
Amid all the other stressors facing divorcing women, it’s not surprising that insurance falls to the bottom of the priority list — all the more reason to make it a priority. Stress can lead to both mental and physical health problems, and the longer you put off finding an insurance plan, the more dire the need for it becomes. A financial planner or family law attorney may be able to point you in the right direction so that you aren’t left without a safety net. Even if all you can afford is a plan that only covers medical catastrophes, you’ll avoid a financial catastrophe just by signing on.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “After Divorce, Many Women Lose Health Insurance,” Daniel Akst, Nov. 14, 2012
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