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Divorce Meant Losing Her Health Insurance (before the Affordable Care Act)

Theresa BrownGold's painting "Divorce, Lost Insurance" for her art project, Art As Social Inquiry.

(Interview 9/2010. Oil on linen, 40 ins. x 30 ins. )

How the painting started...

Update 2021

About half the US population gets their health insurance through their employment. Employees' spouses are counted among that number when they piggyback on their husband's employer plan for health insurance coverage. Many employers offer their employees the chance to add their spouses to their employer-based health plans as dependents.

How many spouses put off divorce for fear of losing their health insurance? I didn't know enough in 2010 to ask this subject how long she waited.

This is one of my favorites. I remember looking at Alice Neel paintings and thinking I'd like to define shapes more dramatically for this painting.

She was so beautiful with symmetrical features. I had a mental block about painting certain kinds of beautiful people. They're so...well, so symmetrical. I always had to remind myself, "I paint souls not pretty pictures." Stick to the person's vibe and let experience and training take over. Although this was 2010. I had been doing portraits for only 2 years. And I had only gotten back into painting 4 years before that.

I could not track down this subject. I will honor our original agreement and not use her first name.


Theresa BrownGold's painting "Divorced, Lost Insurance" for her art project, Art As Social Inquiry.
oil on canvas, 24 ins. x 30 ins.

(from a 2010 interview)

Full Time Student. Divorced with grown children. Studying for new career, Age 52, Uninsured

This woman was married to a pharmaceutical executive. She had health insurance through her husband's employer as a dependent on his policy. The 23 year marriage ended with a settlement that includes a modest alimony payment for four years while the subject builds a new career.

When the couple divorced, this subject lost her health insurance coverage. Since she was no longer her husband's spouse, she was not entitled to health insurance through his employer.

The subject enrolled in college. She bought health insurance through her school for three years. She gave up her health plan in year four to try to save money. She knew she would be saddled with large bills anyway if she was hospitalized. "The university plan is not very good."

The subject sought out acupuncture to treat a bad back. She was afraid a consultation with a medical doctor would cost too much. She gets bloodwork done at a clinic for $40. A dentist friend gives her free dental care.

The subject feels healthy and is hoping she won’t need medical care for the next 6 months when she will have graduated from college and become employed. As a full time employee, she expects to be offered health benefits.

She lives frugally as a college student. She puts money aside in the event of major medical emergency.


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