New Healthcare Law for Divorcing Couples

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One can hardly turn on the news lately without hearing some new fact about the Affordable Health Care Act, or “Obamacare.” While any law of such magnitude has numerous consequences, there is a real impact for some married couples considering divorce.

Namely, how a spouse currently receiving health insurance from his or her partner may now be able to obtain health insurance when newly single at a lower cost.

A University of Michigan study completed in 2012 found that approximately 115,000 women lose private health insurance each year after divorcing. Many of these divorced women either worked in the home or at jobs that were part-time or otherwise did not give a health insurance option. With the changing economic landscape, this is a situation not unique to women, either. And obtaining health insurance after divorce has traditionally been difficult. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 15 percent of married individuals are uninsured, compared to 33 percent for single adults living together. The reason for the disparity between single and married individuals is not difficult to determine: with two possible working adults in one household, there are twice as many opportunities to obtain healthcare insurance.

People contemplating divorce have usually thought about separating for some time before finally reaching out to a divorce lawyer. However, there are many reasons a couple may decide to stay together, including financial reasons. In fact, finances are the biggest cause of arguments among married couples and a leading predictor of divorce. With the Affordable Healthcare Act in place, staying together purely for health insurance and financial reasons may no longer be the only option.
Obtaining insurance through the marketplace

Under Obamacare, every state has an insurance marketplace where anyone can compare insurance policies and prices. For people who cannot afford a policy on their own income, the government will give subsidies to purchase health insurance at minimally acceptable levels.

The new health insurance mandate prevents insurers from denying coverage based on a preexisting condition. This means that a spouse with an illness does not need to remain married in order to stay on a family insurance plan.

One aspect of Obamacare is perhaps unintended – for some, insurance premiums will be lower as a single individual than as a married couple. This situation led to a recent story by a CBS affiliate about a couple considering a divorce in order to more easily afford health insurance. A month after the story ran, one of the couple was able to find a full-time job and so get health insurance. Their situation is not necessarily unique, however, and in some cases – such as to avoid the “marriage tax” or to obtain health insurance – it can make financial as well as emotional sense to divorce.
A professional can help

For most couples, of course, marriage is more than a zero-sum equation about finances. However, for couples who are experiencing a rocky marriage and think it is best to move on with life separately, obtaining a divorce may be easier on the pocketbook than ever before. People considering divorce should contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss the legal and financial options in divorce.

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