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Ladies: Protect Your Health Insurance During Divorce

Lavelle says she'd also like to see researchers look at the issue again after health care reform is fully implemented. A number of important provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will go into effect in 2014, when almost everyone will be required to have health insurance. More people will become eligible for Medicaid, and many lower- to moderate-income people will become eligible for government subsidies to help them afford health insurance. In addition, health insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge higher premiums for people with health conditions.

Combined, those measures should make it easier for women to get access to health insurance if they don't get coverage through their own employers, Lavelle says.

Take action if your marriage hits the rocks

Don't wait until the divorce is final to think about health insurance. Start exploring options as soon as you can, says Colleen Callahan, president of CCIS, an independent insurance agency in Pleasant Hill, Calif.

"There's often a lot of confusion about what's available," she says. So give yourself plenty of time to research your options.

Another reason not to wait: The projected costs for coverage and out-of-pocket medical expenses should be considered during the divorce settlement negotiations, says Lili Vasileff, president of Divorce & Money Matters LLC in Greenwich, Conn., and president of the International Association of Divorce Financial Planners.

Add up your potential costs including the health insurance premium and out-of-pocket costs such as copayments for doctor visits, deductibles and co-insurance, to include in your post-divorce budget, Vasileff says. If affording a health plan is impossible, estimate how much medical care will cost without insurance.

You may need to consult a health insurance agent, financial planner or employee benefits consultant to get good numbers. Divorce attorneys sometimes take a broad-brush stroke when it comes to health insurance and other financial details during the negotiations, Vasileff says. "Generally the nuances don't come to the table. All those little pieces don't get examined carefully enough."

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