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How will a divorce affect your health insurance coverage?

The loss of health insurance coverage is a very real consequence of divorce for many Illinois residents. In many households, all members of a family are insured by one spouse's employer-sponsored health plan. In the event of divorce, a former spouse loses his or her dependent status, meaning he or she can no longer be covered under that plan. Children typically do remain on the employer plan, but the responsibility for paying the premiums may shift.

Losing health insurance during divorce can be very problematic. One study conducted last year found that more than 100,000 women lose their health insurance in the U.S. every year due to divorce. It can be difficult and time-consuming for these women to regain coverage for a number of reasons.

Health insurance is expensive, and when a person has pre-existing conditions, it can be nearly impossible to find an affordable option. This issue is one of several that make divorcing later in life very complicated. Divorce among those over 50 is on the rise, and those in this age group are more likely to have health conditions.

If the Affordable Care Act does go into effect in 2014, health insurers will no longer be allowed to charge consumers more for insurance due to their pre-existing conditions. They also will not be allowed to deny coverage for that reason.

The ACA may also help divorcing couples get a better grasp on their health insurance-related divorce concerns. That is because a new marketplace is supposed to make it easier for consumers to comparison shop for individual policies. So, parties to a divorce can use this tool to estimate future health insurance costs, and bring that information to divorce settlement negotiations. These costs may affect alimony obligations.

Maintaining health insurance coverage is a significant concern for many divorcing couples in Illinois. It is important for people to talk to their family law attorneys to ensure they understand these issues and their options.

Source: MarketWatch.com, "Obamacare could ease divorce's financial sting," Elizabeth O'Brien, Sept. 25, 2013

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