A 2011 University of Michigan National Poverty Center study, Divorce and Women’s Risk of Health Insurance Loss in the U.S., concluded that approximately 115,000 women lost their insurance each year following divorce. Some of these women worked full time in the home or held only part-time jobs in order to focus on raising their children. Sadly, under the previous system, private insurers charged exorbitant prices and considered preexisting conditions of individuals seeking non-employer sponsored health insurance. In addition, Florida laws permitted insurers to charge women substantially more for the exact same insurance coverage as a man of comparable age and health. These factors often made insurance after divorce inaccessible.
Although the UM research concentrated on the effects of divorce on women’s healthcare, the findings also apply to men. Men who have taken on nontraditional childrearing roles or who aren’t offered insurance through their jobs face the same challenges as the women who were highlighted in the health care study.
Divorce is stressful enough without worrying about your health care. If you were previously under your spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance, you have to find other options. Your spouse’s employer is not allowed to keep you on, even if your spouse was inclined to do so. However, your spouse’s dependent children may remain on the policy, although the payment of premiums and deductibles may be a point of negotiation.
To cover your personal health care needs, you have the right to COBRA to fill the gap until you can obtain your own policy. COBRA provides you with the same health coverage, but typically at a much higher premium. This option is expensive and temporary.
The Affordable Care Act may give you more viable options due to the following principles:
- Insurance companies are barred from denying health coverage based upon a preexisting condition
- Insurance companies are prohibited from charging women more for health insurance than men
- Certain employers are required to offer insurance to qualified employees
- Individuals who do not have employer-sponsored insurance can obtain a health care policy easily through a more open market
- Individuals at specified income levels receive tax breaks and subsidies for obtaining health coverage
Even with the new legislation in place, health insurance can be cost prohibitive, especially when you are financially vulnerable and ending a marriage. An attorney can further advise you of your options and negotiate health care premiums as a term of your divorce settlement in Tampa Bay.