Divorce is a stressful situation for all involved. It upsets the balance of many things in life, such as personal well-being, family cohesion, and financial security. It can be hard to start a new life after a divorce, and unfortunately, many women may be starting it by losing their health coverage and becoming uninsured.
A University of Michigan study published earlier this week in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that, each year, about 115,000 American women lose private health insurance following a divorce and about half of those women also become uninsured. And this change wasn’t temporary, women’s rate of insurance following divorce remained low for as long as the study had data, more than two years. Women are especially susceptible to loss of insurance following a divorce because they are more likely than men to receive dependent health coverage, which is primarily obtained through their spouse’s employer. Additionally, women with children are at a greater risk of losing insurance than women without children. This trend may be due to the financial burden put on women who become the sole providers for their children following divorce. Faced with additional financial responsibility, many women are not able to afford or maintain coverage.
To top this off, divorce is already a stressful time—losing coverage simultaneously can be particularly harmful because it compounds stress, putting more strain on women’s health when they no longer have the insurance to seek care.
The good news is the Affordable Care Act will help women stay in control of their health and provide for their families, even during a divorce. Premium tax credits in the health reform law will help recently divorced women purchase private insurance on their own. The Medicaid expansion will provide public health insurance for women who may have previously had too much money to qualify, but are now eligible. Obviously, health coverage shouldn’t be the only consideration when a couple decides whether or not to get a divorce. Women should be able to make this choice knowing that their access to health insurance will not be put in jeopardy. Reforms under the Affordable Care Act will give women some peace of mind as they make this life-changing decision.