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Health care reform could lead to increase in divorce rates

Health insurance -- or lack of it -- is often one reason that many couples stay together instead of filing for divorce. That may be changing, though, with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. According to one expert, a rise in divorce rates is not only possible in Colorado and across the nation, but quite likely.

The University of Michigan published a study in 2012 that revealed that each year, 115,000 women lost their health insurance when they divorced. Many of those women did not work outside of the home, or their employers did not offer benefits such as health insurance.

If a person is covered under a spouse's health insurance when they divorce, he or she is eligible for COBRA health coverage for three years. However, the premiums are usually expensive. The study found that after six months, 25 percent of women who were no longer covered under their husband's heath care plan had insurance. The majority of these women fell in the medium-income range. Those who had less income were able to qualify for some sort of assistance program, such as Medicaid. Those women who had higher incomes were able to afford health insurance.

"Gray divorces," or divorces among those over the age of the 50, are rising, and that trend may continue to rise with the Affordable Care Act. While many of these couples may not yet qualify for Medicare, the Affordable Care Act may provide an option for health care that wasn't available before if they divorced. These couples, while wanting to divorce, may have stayed together until they reached the age of 65 simply so they would have health insurance coverage until Medicare became available.

If the Affordable Care Act is successful, it will remove one of the barriers that many couples see when it comes to divorce. Health care will no longer be such an important concern. It will also likely have an impact on divorce settlements, too, as alimony is often calculated to include a portion of health insurance premiums.

This will not be without its complications for divorce negotiations, though. There will likely be battles fought over whether the government tax credit or subsidy for insurance coverage should lower the amount of spousal support. Legal professionals will need to factor in all of the changes to determine how best to serve their clients during divorce proceedings.

Source: communities.washingtontimes.com, "Divorce could be side effect of Obamacare's healthcare reform" Myra Fleischer, Oct. 07, 2013

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