Insurance and Divorce: Who Keeps the Health Insurance Coverage?

When your marriage is going down the tubes, insurance may not be your biggest concern, but it should be, especially if you’ve been covered by your spouse’s employer-provided health insurance. Once you’re legally separated or divorced, you most likely will lose your health insurance coverage. Here are the steps to take to avoid any lapse in medical insurance.

If you’re employed, talk to your Human Resources department or whomever is in charge of group insurance where you work as soon as possible, ideally within 30 days of signing a legal separation or filing divorce. Your strategy is to have your new health insurance begin on the day you are no longer covered by your spouse’s policy. In many cases you’ll probably have guaranteed eligibility without the need to qualify medically. Even if your company has a specific enrollment period, most plans will waive that when there is a change in life circumstances such as separation, divorce or death.

If you aren’t employed, or your work place does not offer medical insurance coverage, you (and your children, if any) may still be entitled to continue coverage under your ex-spouse’s plan by taking advantage of COBRA for up to 36 months. This won’t be cheap (although your attorney may be able to negotiate who pays for it), but it will provide you and your kids with continuity of coverage. That will be very important when you start looking for private health insurance quotes. Also, in most instances, you may receive better rates and benefits under COBRA than you’ll be able to get with an individual health insurance policy. Do be aware that companies with 20 or fewer employees are generally not required to offer COBRA, although some states have enacted legislation making it a requirement for companies with as few as two employees. In any event, you’ll need to get in touch with your ex-spouse’s employer within 60 days of filing legal separation or divorce and complete the required paperwork to qualify for COBRA.

If you don’t qualify for COBRA and can’t get health insurance through your employer, you may still be able to find affordable group health insurance quotes. Check with your state’s insurance commission to see if it has rules that allow individuals to form a group of one or two. Many professional organizations, service clubs and similar groups offer policies to members, which could also provide a source of affordable medical insurance coverage. You can also look for competitive individual health insurance quotes online or consider a Health Savings Account with a high deductible.


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