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Women risk losing health insurance after divorce

Every year, an estimated 115,000 women in the U.S. lose their health insurance in the months after their divorce is finalized, according to a study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Losing health insurance coverage adds to the financial stress of divorce and it appears that more women risk losing their health insurance after divorced than men.

One-fourth of U.S. women under the age of 65 receive health insurance coverage through their spouse's employer-sponsored insurance plan. After divorce, former spouses are no longer eligible to be covered under their ex-spouse's insurance plan. This forces many divorced women to try and seek private health insurance coverage, which many cannot afford or are denied insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

The study found that women typically see a significant decrease in household income and quality of life after divorce. The study's findings show just how big of an impact divorce has on women's health insurance coverage, which has never been studied before.

Women who earn higher-incomes were not as adversely affected because many already had or were able to afford their employer-sponsored health insurance. Divorced women who had lower-incomes were also not as affected as they qualified for Medicare and state-assistance programs to help cover health insurance and health-care costs.

Women who earned middle-incomes were affected the greatest after divorce. The study found that these women had the highest risk of losing health insurance coverage and even if their own employer provided health insurance, many were not able to afford the premiums.

The financial burden of divorce can be difficult for men and women. This study shows the importance of understanding how health insurance coverage will be affected after divorce. Spouses getting divorced should make sure they consider health insurance costs when looking at how their financial future will be impacted after divorce.

Source: Health Behavior News Service, "Women Often Lose Their Health Insurance When Divorced," Stephanie Stephens, Nov. 13, 2012

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