Say what you want about the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) — it delivered at least a few unexpected benefits. Perhaps the most surprising: reduced likelihood of divorce among a specific population: middle-aged, college-educated spouses. Read on to learn how Medicaid expansion reduced the divorce rate — and why.
When Lack of Health Care Prompts Divorce
The interplay between ObamaCare and divorce rate is perhaps best explained by a compelling story from a 2009 New York Times column. The Nicholas Kristof piece highlighted a woman forced to choose between destitution and divorce as she faced the exorbitant cost of treatment for her husband’s early-onset dementia. She chose divorce. She was far from alone in making such an unthinkable decision.
ObamaCare and Divorce: By the Numbers
A noteworthy study from University of Kansas researchers Donna Ginther and David Slusky suggests that the Medicaid expansion accompanying the ACA decreased divorce prevalence by 11.6 percent — specifically for college-educated spouses between the ages of 50 and 64.
Prior to the ACA, several states limited the assets couples could possess before they qualified for Medicaid. Hence, couples were forced to spend down their assets before they could qualify. By necessity, many couples divorced so as to protect at least one spouse’s property. With Medicaid expansion, asset limits were removed, allowing low-income spouses to qualify regardless of assets.
Interestingly, a Supreme Court ruling made the removal of asset caps strictly optional. Researchers later compared the states that removed asset caps with those that kept them; reduced divorce rates occurred wherever low-income spouses with greater assets were allowed access to Medicaid.
No matter the role health care plays in your divorce, you can count on the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. for help. Call us at (763) 873-5146 to learn more about the practical elements of divorce — and how our team can help you secure the best possible outcome.