Health Insurance: A Consideration in Divorce

The New York Times ran a front page story detailing how the availability of medical insurance has become a major consideration in the decision to divorce or to wed.

In a poll conducted this spring by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group, 7 percent of adults said someone in their household had married in the past year to gain access to insurance. The foundation cautions that the number should not be taken literally, but rather as an intriguing indicator that some Americans “are making major life decisions on the basis of health care concerns.”

The issue of medical coverage has long been a consideration in divorce. In fact, many couples, after negotiating their settlement agreements, delay seeking an immediate divorce and, instead, opt to divorce on the basis of their living separate and apart for a year pursuant to a written separation agreement. The one year separation allows a party who would otherwise be without access to medical insurance to remain eligible for medical coverage on the basis of the marriage. Some couples put off the divorce for even more than a year for this very reason.

Amplifying this consideration, New York requires parties to acknowledge that they are aware that they will no longer be allowed to receive health coverage under their former spouse's health insurance plan once the divorce is granted.

Following the divorce the parties may be eligible to continue medical coverage under COBRA (which can be prohibitively expensive) or purchase insurance on their own

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