Obamacare and divorce: Who would’ve imagined a connection?
Two University of Kansas economists think they found one.
The connection has to do with what lawyers call a “medical divorce” or “Medicaid divorce.” That can happen when one partner is diagnosed with a degenerative disease or needs costly long-term care.
Without a legal divorce, treatment might rob both spouses of all they own.
The bottom line of a working paper gaining some national traction, written by KU professors David Slusky and Donna Ginther, is that divorce rates for a certain age group declined in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The economists found no such trend in states that turned down federal funds to expand Medicaid.
Among people ages 50 to 64 — the age cohort considered most likely to end a marriage so that a sick spouse can more quickly qualify for government health benefits — the dip in divorces averaged 5.6 percent where Medicaid was expanded, Slusky and Ginther calculated.
“That’s significant,” Slusky recently told The Star. “The upside is that more people who want to stay married are staying married.”
His conclusion is considered a reach among some area lawyers who handle medical divorces.
Nonetheless, National Public Radio, The Washington Post and other media outlets have shown interest in what Slusky calls a “perverse incentive” built into pre-Obamacare Medicaid eligibility rules that drive some happy marriages to Splitsville.
You’ve heard the familiar talking points in the debate over Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” the 2010 Affordable Care Act: pre-existing conditions,…
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