Each year, over 100,000 women lose their health insurance coverage after divorcing their spouses, and over half of these women remain uninsured for the long-term. For women with serious health conditions who were formerly insured through their husbands plan, losing their health insurance is especially devastating. For these women, finding a company that will adequately insure them at an affordable rate can be extremely challenging.
Few will argue that our current health care system is allowing some to slip through the cracks. In many cases, when someone is mulling over the already difficult decision of whether or not to get a divorce, they are being forced to factor in what will become of their health insurance. They are forced to consider what type of coverage options they will be left with, if any at all. In a country where frequent job and family changes are not uncommon, our system fails to consistently provide adequate coverage options for those going through these transitions, leaving many women out in the cold.
Some of the women who lose health insurance coverage following divorce are unemployed. This makes finding a health insurance plan that fits their needs more difficult because they don’t have the option of simply switching over to their own employer-backed plan. Those who are employed and were offered employment-based coverage often declined that coverage years ago, expecting their husband’s coverage to be more comprehensive or an overall better value. Even with the option to convert to their own plan after a divorce, many women may find it difficult to pay for their coverage on their income. This is especially true for middle-income women who don’t qualify for Medicaid.
Coming into effect on January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act will provide some much needed relief. It will help some women obtain adequate health insurance coverage following divorce. Those without employer-backed coverage will be able to buy insurance through exchanges and might qualify for federal subsidies to help pay for it, severely enhancing one’s ability to obtain health insurance.
In an effort to educate consumers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has updated its HealthCare.gov website and launched a call center so people can get information about insurance marketplaces or exchanges 24 hours a day. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Health and Human Services, summed up their objective in a written statement by saying their mission is “to make sure every American who needs health coverage has the information they need to make choices that are right for themselves, their families or their businesses.”