Healthcare reform will be good for divorcing couples (women in particular)

[GSMITHBOOK] Now that healthcare reform is the law of the land, I couldn’t help thinking of it from a divorce angle (I think of everything in the context of divorce these days) and I was reading an article in the Times of London about this divorcée Natoma Canfield who had written to President Obama asking him not to give up on healthcare reform, after Ted Kennedy’s senate seat went to the GOP. Ms. Natoma’s story is hardly unusual.

After a divorce, women and children are often left at a severe financial disadvantage. With regard to health insurance, divorce can come down to a matter of life and death, having a home and being homeless, chronic terminal illness or having good health care options and preventative remedies that can enhance or prolong a person’s life.

The thing with divorce is that a spouse no longer has a legal obligation to provide healthcare coverage for the the other spouse. At best, they must provide COBRA which is extremely pricey – especially for unemployed or underemployed individuals.  (See this New York Times article on COBRA and the new legislation.) A crucial part of the divorce proceedings, in New York certainly, is for the parties to acknowledge or stipulate that they know and understand the fact that they are no longer legally entitled to coverage by a  former spouse. In Ms. Natoma’s case, she divorced, lost her insurance coverage and later, her home in trying to keep up with insurance costs as a divorced and self-employed 5o year old woman.  She implored the president not to give up and he listened. Here is what she said to him in her letter, according to the Times of London:

“I am 50 years old,” her letter starts. “I was diagnosed with carcinoma 16 years ago and following my divorce 12 years ago I became self-employed.” Without coverage from an employer, she had to shop around for a policy she could afford. Under its terms she paid out more than $10,000 last year in premiums and fees and was reimbursed for less then one tenth of her outlay. She was then hit with an increase in her premiums of more than 40 per cent.

With a new diagnosis of leukaemia, Ms Canfield faced not only a deadly illness but also the loss of her home. “Please stay focused in your reform attempts,” she wrote, and Mr Obama has done so. “I’m here because of Natoma,” he told a rally in her home state last week. “I want some courage! I want us to do the right thing!”

For many divorcées, this bill may be a desperately needed life line. It may not seem like it now, but as people age and divorce, and as healthcare costs balloon and insurance companies get increasingly greedy, folks will be mighty glad this bill is the law of the land. And it is not just about paying for cancer treatments. It is about preventative medicine too; it is about keeping folks healthier and living longer lives with a much higher degree of mobility and self-determination.

Kudos to all who participated in this momentous agenda. And yes, I think it will pass constitutional muster when the dust settles. There is nothing unconstitutional about saying that healthcare is a right for every American….life, liberty, pursuit of health happiness….healthcare is definitely a part of the penumbra of rights that every American is assured in the Constitution. Health care is not a privilege. It is a right. It should be a right. It should be a part of the penumbra of rights for any civilized society to provide mechanisms that keep their people healthy. Good health is easier to manage and more cost effective than ill health any day – it’s not rocket science, is it? Mandating that all American’s purchase health insurance is not constitutionally improper either. It will keep costs manageable for everyone. That is the whole point. And no, this is not socialism. So notwithstanding the posturing of the attorneys general in a number of states, I think it will stand. And this is good for divorcées everywhere!

Kudos to President Obama and his entire team on this one. And all the other Presidents and Hillary Clinton too. Job well done!

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