Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Does Our Health Care System Cause Divorce?

Does America's health care system cause family breakdown?

Well, Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times would have you believe that it does. In an article titled, "Until Medical Bills Do Us Part," Kristoff writes about an anonymous female friend who was compelled for financial reasons to divorce her husband after he was diagnosed with early onset dementia:

M. still helps her husband and, quietly, continues to live with him and care for him. But she worries that the authorities will come after her if they realize that they divorced not because of irreconcilable differences but because of irreconcilable medical bills. There were awkward questions from friends who saw the divorce announcement in the newspaper.

“It’s just crazy,” she said. “It twists people like pretzels.”

It is a heartbreaking situation without a doubt. I am curious though how wide spread it actually is. If there are a critical mass of married couples divorcing because of health care costs then something should be done because it is not the sort of choice families in need of long term health care ought not have to make.

Yet I am not sure how instituting a national health care system addresses this problem.

In Canada, most long term health care facilities are not covered by Medicare. It's paid out of your own pocket. Now Canadians can claim a Medical Expenses tax credit on their federal individual income tax return. (Many years ago, I used to work for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency when it was known as Revenue Canada and had to assess, amongst other things, eligible medical care expenses.) There is a similar medical expenses tax credit in this country that covers nursing homes and long term health care facilities. Perhaps these existing mechanisms can be improved to ease the financial burden families face in paying for long term health care.

Yet I need more evidence to be convinced our health care system causes or contributes to divorce and family breakdown.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes. I need a great deal of medical care right now, and cannot begin to tell you what a trial life has been for the last three years. Because of my "uninsurability" I have taken my family to the brink of bankruptcy. I will divorce my husband and break my family's hearts before I will allow them all to be homeless and broke, which is where we are headed now.
I have paid my own freight since I was 13 years old, and never collected a dime in unemployment or disability. I have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes over the years. I find it ironic that I can call the fire department to save my "stuff" if necessary, but that there is nothing else I have paid into to save myself. Death or divorce? I choose divorce. Sad. Im not even angry any more. Just very, very sad.