“Medical divorce” is a term coined some years ago to describe a divorce obtained for medical reasons. More specifically, according to a recent article by George Diepenbrock, researchers defined “medical divorce” as

an instance where one partner becomes diagnosed with a degenerative disease, such as early onset dementia. The couple could drain its assets, including retirement savings, to pay for treatment. However, some couples instead choose to divorce to shield one person’s assets. The sick partner would eventually qualify for Medicaid.

A study by two University of Kansas economists suggests there may be a link between the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and a reduction in the number of medical divorces. The expansion under the ACA increased Medicaid coverage to include adults younger than 65 with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty guideline without consideration of their assets.  Donna Ginther, professor of economics, and David Slusky, assistant professor of economics, compared divorce rates prior to and after the expansion. They found that states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA experienced a “5.6 percent decrease in the prevalence of divorce among people ages 50-64, compared with those states that did not expand.” Given the policy change affecting the states that expanded Medicaid, the professors determined it is reasonable to assume that a reduction in medical divorces accounted for the decrease.

This reduction, however, may be short lived depending on any legislative changes enacted by Congress. The article notes that Professors Ginther and Slusky believe “that research on how certain policy changes – including potential reintroduction of asset tests for eligibility – have influenced individuals’ lives can be valuable as Congress considers how to move forward with the nation’s health care system.”

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leslie_SpoltoreLeslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.