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Has 'Obamacare' decreased the divorce rate?

Millions of Americans who have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as the ACA and nicknamed by those both for and against it as "Obamacare," are understandably nervous since both President Trump and Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal and replace it.

While the ACA certainly hasn't solved all the issues of health insurance affordability in this country, it has allowed people who previously didn't qualify or couldn't afford it to have coverage. There's another possible positive aspect of the law -- a drop in divorce rates.

That's because prior to the ACA, states could set a "maximum asset level" for couples to qualify for Medicaid. The federal program allows low-income and disabled Americans to obtain low-cost or free medical care.

Therefore, if one spouse had a serious illness or injury, the couple's joint savings would have to fall below this level for the sick spouse to qualify for Medicaid. Unfortunately, some couples felt they had no option but to get a "medical divorce" in order to keep from having to drain both of their savings accounts. With the changes in the law brought about by the ACA, that was no longer necessary. Further, most states (including New York) expanded their Medicaid programs under the ACA.

Some economists at the University of Kansas decided to look at the impact on divorce rates among Americans between 50 and 64 (just up to the qualifying age for Medicare) in states that had Medicaid expansions. They found a 5.6 percent decrease in divorce between 2000 and 2015, when the ACA was fully implemented, in those states that expanded Medicaid as part of the ACA.

Of course, there could well be additional reasons for the decline. Unemployment rates dropped during that period, for example. However, the changes in health care laws eliminated the need for couples to divorce in order to keep from draining their savings.

Obviously, no one should have to end a marriage for financial reasons. However, with the future of the ACA unknown at this point, it remains to be seen if the changes it brought to the Medicaid program will be repealed or will remain in place. If you're considering divorce for any reason, it's wise to seek the guidance of an experienced New York family law attorney.

Source: Men's Health, "Divorce Rates Have Dropped Since Obamacare," Andrew Daniels, Feb. 16, 2017

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