Widowhood, Divorce, and Loss of Health Insurance Among Near Elderly Women: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

33 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2008

See all articles by David Weir

David Weir

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Institute for Social Research (ISR)

Robert J. Willis

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: April 2003

Abstract

We have found modest effects of widowhood events on loss of health insurance. There are also modest effects of widowhood on labor supply, which we have not as yet attempted to attribute to insurance demand. Even new widowhood events, however, are not random with respect to initial conditions. Both initial health insurance status and risk of future widowhood are related to basic characteristics observed when married at baseline. When these confounding variables are controlled for in models of the effect of widowhood events on uninsurance, there is no longer statistical evidence of an independent effect of husband's death on risk of losing insurance. Part of the reason why the measured independent effect of widowhood appears small is that there are events within marriage that can also affect insurance coverage, such as retirement or health events. Even though the number of uninsured women whose lack of coverage can be attributed to widowhood is therefore small, and not a distinct major policy motive for changes in age of eligibility for Medicare, uninsurance rates overall among the near elderly, and the potential public burden of cost-shifting from years just before 65 to years just after gaining Medicare coverage, suggest that Medicare eligibility policies should be a focus of continued research.

Suggested Citation

Weir, David and Willis, Robert J., Widowhood, Divorce, and Loss of Health Insurance Among Near Elderly Women: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study (April 2003). Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No. WP 2003-040. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1090894 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1090894

David Weir (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Institute for Social Research (ISR) ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248
United States

Robert J. Willis

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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