As Congress continues to grapple with the President’s mandate to find an alternative to the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare), the potential consequences of a repeal are weighing heavily in some spouses’ decisions regarding divorce. According to an article published on Time.com, some spouses are choosing to delay finalizing their divorces based, at least in part, on concerns over the potential consequences of an Obamacare repeal.
What Obamacare Means for Divorcing Spouses
When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010 (note, however, that the ACA did not take full effect until 2014), it offered a solution for individuals who found themselves without access to employer-sponsored medical coverage as a result of their divorce. While the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provided continuing coverage for divorced spouses for up to three years, when non-working former spouses’ COBRA coverage expired, they often struggled to find affordable coverage – if they could find any coverage at all. Today, under COBRA and the ACA, divorced spouses can seek to remain on their former spouses’ policies for up to three years if desired; or, they can seek private health care coverage on the open market, and the ACA provides that insurers cannot deny coverage or increase premiums based upon a potential policyholder’s pre-existing medical conditions.
As a result, when it took full effect, the ACA opened up a new world of possibilities for divorcing spouses. Those who did not have coverage through employment now had guaranteed access to health insurance following their divorce, and those who had coverage did not have to worry (or, at least did not have to worry as much) about access to healthcare adding an additional layer of complexity to the divorce process.
The Time.com article warns that a repeal of Obamacare could mean “a return to the old days” with respect to dealing with healthcare related issues during a divorce. As the author notes, “it’s hard to predict what premiums might look like in the coming years;” and, if the ACA is repealed without a replacement, former spouses could once again find themselves being deemed “uninsurable” as a result of a pre-existing condition. As a practical matter, this means that both spouses would have to contend with medical care-related issues, with provisions for spousal support likely taking on an even more-central role in negotiations, mediation and divorce litigation.
What Does the Future Hold for Unemployed Former Spouses?
With so many questions yet to be answered, one thing remains certain: The politicized debate about healthcare coverage is unlikely to end any time soon. While some spouses are taking a wait-and-see approach, this may or may not be the best option for others when considering their unique personal circumstances. In addition, there are potential consequences to delaying a divorce, and anyone considering a divorce should be sure to weigh all of the relevant factors before deciding when and where to file.
For those who decide to wait, entering into a postnuptial agreement may a better option than simply delaying the proceedings (or, as the Time.com article suggests, negotiating a divorce but waiting to file in court). But, once again, deciding what is best for you will require a careful assessment of all of the unique facts and circumstances involved. Should you wait? It depends, and you should discuss your options with an experienced attorney.
Questions? Contact Us to Schedule a Confidential Consultation
If you have questions about how healthcare-related issues could impact your divorce, we encourage you to inquire about a confidential consultation. To request an appointment with North County divorce attorney Richard M. Renkin, please call 619-299-7100 or contact us online today.