Divorce has a tremendous impact on women’s health. Every year, an estimated 115,000 women lose private health insurance in the months following divorce, and about 65,000 of them remain uninsured for the long-term, according to a study that appeared in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Even two years following the breakup of a marriage, many women still have no or inadequate health insurance. The Journal of Health augments “…the body of evidence that the current healthcare and insurance system in the United States is inadequate for a population in which multiple family and job changes over the life course are not uncommon.
“As a result, life events such as job transitions, marital transitions, and the onset of health problems allow individuals to slip through the cracks.”
The authors looked at marital status and health insurance coverage over time among 1,442 women to examine how their health insurance changed after divorce.
Previous research has demonstrated that people often experience poorer health following divorce and that women are more likely than men to suffer a decline in economic status after divorce. The new study is one of the first to show the impact of marital breakups on health insurance coverage.
“Just over half of workers get employer-based coverage, and a lot of people access health insurance coverage through other people’s employer-based coverage,” says Bridget Lavelle, a co-author of the paper and doctoral candidate in public policy and sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. “One in four women are insured through a family member’s health insurance coverage. It’s important for people to be aware that this is something that could be lost if a marriage dissolves.”
Some of the women who lose health insurance coverage following divorce are employed. But they may not have employer-based coverage or, prior to the divorce, they may have chosen to access their spouse’s plan rather than their own. “Women who are employed and are offered employment-based coverage have a higher rate of declining that coverage and accepting coverage through their husband’s policy,” Lavelle says. “They are expecting their husband’s coverage to be more comprehensive or be a better value.”