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California spouses should consider insurance in property division

A recently released study suggests that women face a particularly high risk of losing their health insurance coverage in the months following a divorce. The data, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, finds that as many as 115,000 women each year become uninsured after a divorce.

Perhaps more unsettling, an estimated 65,000 of those women will remain uninsured for a long period of time. For California women who are beginning the divorce process, health insurance should be something that is considered in the conversations surrounding property division.

Some women are insured under the employment benefits of their husband, and vice versa. Once the divorce is final, the non-employee spouse is no longer considered a dependent, and thus the coverage is lost. This reality can complicate an already difficult time for a newly divorced person, as he or she struggles to settle into a new routine and new household arrangement.

Some will will qualify for Medicaid once their household income is reduced after divorce. Many others, however, will earn too much to tap into government benefits but too little to afford private health insurance. In this scenario, the costs of obtaining new coverage can be budget-breaking. The choice to forgo insurance coverage offers no better solution, as the stress associated with lack of insurance is high, and a simple illness or injury can cause financial ruin.

The best approach to obtaining a positive divorce outcome involves careful planning. Women and men should both avail themselves of full knowledge of their rights under California law, and should negotiate accordingly. While it may not be possible to keep one's existing health coverage, the cost of obtaining a new policy can possibly be worked into the property division negotiations. This is a great example of a seemingly minor issue that can have serious ramifications if not handled properly during a divorce.

Source: News-Medical.net, "US women lose their health insurance after divorce: Study," Dec. 1, 2012

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