Divorce and Healthcare Coverage: Should You Stay Together For the Benefits?

Despite the fact that U.S. divorce rates are on the decline, there are still plenty of couples who won’t end living out their “happily ever after” love story. Some couples insist on staying together for their children — and perhaps to avoid a custody battle, although children over the age of 12 can speak with a judge privately regarding their living situation preferences. But even if you share no children with your partner, there still may be some very valid reasons to put off a divorce. Not only may the financial implications of an impending separation give you pause, but you may also be wondering how you’ll obtain healthcare without your spouse.

It might sound like a minor detail to some. But if you’ve never gone through the process of obtaining your own healthcare policy, you might not realize how confusing (and how expensive) getting this coverage can be. After a divorce is finalized, you may not have the option of remaining on your former spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan. In other words, a divorce might mean you may need to get your own coverage. After all, it costs nearly $250 billion just to process the 30 billion healthcare transactions that take place every year. It’s no surprise, then, that consumers are often stuck with huge medical bills — even when they do have some level of coverage. Healthcare coverage itself doesn’t necessarily come cheap, depending on your circumstances, and even figuring out which options will work best for your situation may be a lengthy process.

But since roughly 31 million injuries that require medical attention occur every year in the U.S., some couples are trying to game the system to keep their medical costs more affordable. That’s often the case among older couples on Medicaid who might otherwise go through a “gray divorce.” Some attorneys might advise that these couples separate, rather than divorce, to manage healthcare costs.

That said, rising medical bills have actually prompted extreme reactions on the other end of the spectrum. Interestingly, some happily married couples are turning to the painful step of divorce due to overwhelmingly high medical bills. The term “medical divorce” has been coined as a way to refer to this phenomenon, which comes into play when an individual might want to protect their financial assets from being used to pay for medical costs. Essentially, spouses might have to choose between sacrificing their marriage and going bankrupt. When a couple makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid or aren’t old enough to obtain coverage through Medicare, divorce may be the very option that allows them to obtain the healthcare they need or save themselves from financial ruin.

Overall, the conundrum illustrates just some of the huge issues that plague the American healthcare system. Some people might believe they can get along just fine without healthcare coverage, of course. For the 76% of American organic consumers who cite the health benefits of organic food as their reasons for purchase, they might believe that they can prevent or cure just about any little medical issue at home. But the reality is that you’ll probably need health insurance coverage when you least expect it — and in the event of an emergency, the costs are bound to be astronomical without insurance.

If you’re among the 50% of American adults who are married and are considering a divorce, you’ll want to consider more than just the division of your assets; you’ll also want to think about insurance coverage and other costs along the way. And if you and your spouse are facing a major medical situation, you might want to pay close attention to your current policy and determine whether it’s actually better to remain married in sickness and in health. If you’re still in love and fighting for your marriage — consider starting with a nice gesture like getting flowers. It’s not going to solve everything, but 99% of people say that a person who gives flowers is thoughtful — so it’s a good place to start.