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More women at risk for losing health insurance after divorce

Divorce can impact all aspects of a person's life but a new study found just how much divorce impacts an individual's health insurance.

A study done by the University of Michigan found that an estimated 115,000 women lose their private health insurance coverage every year after getting divorced. What's worse is that only half of these women are able to get replacement health insurance coverage. The study also found that the overall rate of health insurance for divorced women remains "depressed for more than two years after divorce."

The researchers looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation, which generally focuses on household income. They analyzed data from the past four years and observed married women who remained married or got divorced during that time period.

Through this study, the researchers found that six months after divorce, 15 to 20 percent of women lost their health insurance coverage.

While the study's results were surprising to many researchers, they found that some divorced women are more at risk to lose health insurance than others. Women who were covered as dependents on their spouse's insurance plan were most likely to lose their health insurance after divorce. Women who had full-time jobs and health insurance through their own job were more likely to keep their health insurance.

The study found that the women most at risk for losing their health insurance after divorce were those who earned a moderate income as a family. Women who lived in a household earning $46,000 to $70,000 have the highest risk of losing health insurance after divorce because they cannot afford to purchase their own private coverage after divorce but they do not qualify for Medicaid.

Options are available for divorced women to receive health insurance. Federal law allows ex-spouses to purchase COBRA insurance coverage up to three years after the divorce. COBRA coverage has high premiums but allows ex-spouses to have the same insurance coverage they had before the divorce.

More options may be available for divorced women with moderate to lower income levels in the future after all of the provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act go into effect.

Source: AARP, "For Many Women, Divorce Means Losing Health Insurance Protection," Nov. 15, 2012

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