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Health care coverage and divorce

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, some Colorado residents may have worried about losing their health insurance following a divorce. Although COBRA has typically provided divorced persons with 36 months of coverage, the required premiums may not be affordable to some people, and there is no guarantee of obtaining an individual policy when the three-year COBRA coverage lapses.

Because health insurance was so hard to come by, especially for people with preexisting conditions, some people were tempted to remain in dead-end marriages just to reap the benefits of their spouse's employer-provided health insurance. For those couples who knew that divorce was inevitable, a company insurance plan may have given one spouse a seemingly unfair amount of bargaining power in divorce settlement negotiations.

A family law attorney noted that one of her clients had to make serious concessions in exchange for his then-wife's agreement to remain married to him for another 8 years so that the man, who was ill, could have continuous coverage. The wife also agreed that she would keep paying for the husband's health insurance even after they divorced and even if she remarried.

The attorney believes that the ACA will make the issue of health care less of a bargaining chip during a divorce. While the main strategy for attorneys representing divorcing spouses in need of insurance used to include negotiating away a valuable asset, now there is a range of policies that may be available in the marketplaces created by the ACA. Depending upon a person's age, ACA policies may even provide a cheaper option than COBRA.

Source: Philly.com, "Insurance no longer may hinder divorce", Robert Calandra, March 03, 2014

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