Sunday, August 30, 2009

Long Term Care can destroy assets of spouses in second marriages, even for the benefit of first-marriage kids

Nicholas D. Kristof has a particularly disturbing column in the Sunday Aug. 30 New York Times, p. 8 in Opinion, “Until Medical Bills Due Us Part”, link here.

He sketches out a woman who, well provided with an inheritance from a first marriage, enters a second marriage. The second husband develops dementia, with the likelihood of long term care, and they did not have long term care insurance. She has a pre-nuptial agreement, but that does not protect her from her husband’s custodial care expenses, nor does it protect what she would pass on to the children of her first marriage (one of the most important points in the article).

So she divorces, well before the husband actually incurs the expenses of LTC. That’s to protect her assets from his expenses (despite “till death do us part”). The divorce announcement appears in the newspapers (not the Internet, with the online reputation problems, thank you – although probably the newspaper story winds up on the Web anyway) and she fears that the fibbies will come after her, as in a John Grisham novel. Needless to say, the Times story doesn't name names.

Our current health care system destroys families (and contradicts family values) and kills more people than any “end of life” panels could, Kristof says. But reforming health care financing alone won’t address the growing custodial care and LTC issue.

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