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Author: Weir, David ; Willis, Robert
Working Paper: Widowhood, Divorce, and Loss of Health Insurance Among Near-Elderly Women: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study (PDF) ; July 2002

Research Findings (HTML)

The predominance of employer sponsored health insurance for the under-65 population, combined with the significant number of married women over 50 who rely on their husband's health insurance for their own coverage, creates a large population of women potentially vulnerable to loss of coverage in the event of divorce or a husband's death. To understand the impact of widowhood and divorce on the near elderly, we develop a model of the channels through which near elderly women gain and lose health insurance coverage, focusing on widowhood. In order to make certain that we do not underestimate these effects, we control for the joint influence of other underlying characteristics on both health insurance status and widows' well-being. We find that, for most women, widowhood does not increase the likelihood of being uninsured. Policies should focus on the 10-20 percent of women who lack coverage during the vulnerable years before Medicare eligibility.