The recent implosion of the House GOP's replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act may have done more than save Medicaid coverage for millions. A number of marriages could also have been preserved in expansion states.
A recent analysis conducted by economics researchers at the University of Kansas compared divorce rates in 40 states—half of which expanded Medicaid in 2010 for all adults making up to 138% of the federal poverty level and half of which never adopted expansion.
The analysis found a 5.6% decrease in divorces among couples age 50 to 64 in Medicaid expansion states compared with non-expansion states.
Under the ACA's Medicaid expansion, rules were changed to base eligibility on the level of the couple's net income and eliminate maximum asset qualifications.
According to study co-author David Slusky, assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, the change in Medicaid rules likely reduced the need for “medical divorce.” Such cases occur when one partner experiences a debilitating health condition, and the couple decides to divorce so the other partner can retain their assets while the person who is sick files for Medicaid.
“From these results, I would expect future states that expanded Medicaid would see relative drops in divorce,” Slusky said.
“We talk a lot in this country about the other half of this, meaning strategic marriage when it comes to immigration or gaining health insurance from one's employer,” Slusky said. “But we don't talk about the other side—the consequence of tying so many things to being married is that you can create adverse incentives on both sides.”