Aug 31, 2009

Health Care Costs Encourage Divorce--For Economic Purposes Only

We're all familiar with the concept of a "marriage of convenience," where partners marry for reasons more practical than romantic. But in the current economy there's now an increase in what could be seen as a divorce of convenience--or even of necessity, with marriage becoming another casualty of the broken health care system.

A New York Times opinion piece this week illustrates the most common scenario: contentedly married spouses encountering the certainty of future health care costs that they simply can't afford discover that divorce is the only way to avoid financial ruin. In this case, a middle-aged husband has early-onset dementia, with a prognosis of degenerative mental function until he becomes unable to care for himself and must be institutionalized. On the advice of a social worker, the hospital where he receives care, and an attorney, his wife filed for divorce. The alternative was losing all of their joint and her separate assets as his health care gradually becomes more expensive. The wife continues to live with and care for her husband, but legally, they are not married and she is not responsible for his medical costs.

Medical costs are by far the leading cause of personal bankruptcy, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Medicine.

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