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When Health Insurance Drives Divorce

Posted Aug 13 2008 6:39am
'If you have your health, you have everything', or so the saying goes. But, what if you don't have health insurance? Without it, you are gambling with your life because necessary preventative tests and essential care may be postponed or ignored. The health care system is so broken that more and more individuals are deciding to put off divorce or worse yet, choosing divorce for the sake of health care coverage.

What kind of nation are we when 1 in 4 adults admit to having a serious problem paying for health care, and 7% say that a family member married in the past year to gain access to insurance? These statistics come fro a survey conducted by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which supports the view that some Americans “are making major life decisions on the basis of health care concerns.”

Should you or shouldn't you? Divorce that is. If you are dependent upon your spouse for health insurance, to stay or not to stay may be a life or death decision. Mellow drama aside, some couples are choosing to marry to gain necessary coverage for one partner, while others are choosing to postpone an otherwise inevitable divorce for fear of loosing necessary coverage for a preexisting condition.

As the costs of insurance continue to spiral upward, and the rate of unemployment climbs higher too, the ability to afford insurance just gets harder to obtain and less affordable to keep, according to attorneys and patient advocacy groups who share their observations that this is becoming a more frequent occurrence [New York Times (NYT), 8/12/08].

Whereas once upon a time, unplanned pregnancies drove people to hasty marriages, (followed, in many instances, by bitter divorces) , and money has always played a prominent role in bringing people together and producing irreconcilable differences, it is health care coverage that is taking center stage as a force for many life decisions. With half of all personal bankruptcies attributed to skyrocketing medical bills, based on a Harvard study, saying "I do, in sickness and in health" takes on a more ominous significance. As the NYT article so eloquently says, we find ourselves marrying "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, for co-pays and deductibles."

So to divorce perchance to wallow--in more than just misery--it may mean that at a highly stressful time, when people are likely to fall into depression and experience all kinds of physical ailments, we will be our own undoing.

What kind of nation are we that we can't provide health care coverage for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable?


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