About 115,000 women lose their private health insurance every year in the wake of divorce, according to a University of Michigan study.
And this loss is not temporary: women's overall rates of health insurance coverage remain depressed for more than two years after divorce.
"Given that approximately one million divorces occur each year in the U.S., and that many women get health coverage through their husbands, the impact is quite substantial," said Bridget Lavelle, a U-M doctoral candidate in public policy and sociology, and lead author of the study, which appears in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Lavelle conducted the study, which analyzes nationally representative longitudinal data from 1996 through 2007 on women ages 26-64, with U-M sociologist Pamela Smock. Their research was supported by the U-M National Poverty Center.
Among the other key findings of the study:
* Each year, roughly 65,000 divorced women lose all health insurance coverage in the months following divorce. Many women have trouble maintaining private insurance coverage because they no longer qualify as dependents under their husbands' policies or have difficulty paying premiums for other sources of private insurance. And despite the financial hardship divorced women often experience, many do not qualify for Medicaid or other public insurance.
* Women insured as dependents on their husbands' employer-based insurance policy are particularly vulnerable to loss of coverage after divorce. Nearly onequarter of them are uninsured six months after divorce.
* Women who have their own employer-based coverage are less likely than other women to lose coverage (11 percent versus 17 percent), but they are not completely immune from loss of coverage because financial losses related to the divorce may reduce their ability to meet ordinary expenses, including their share of employee-sponsored health insurance.