Your health is the most important asset you have, and health insurance coverage is a close second.
If your health insurance is through your spouse’s employer, once the divorce is final you will need to obtain health insurance for yourself. It is very important that there is no gap in coverage, so you must deal with the issue early in divorce negotiations.
COBRA – It’s a Federal Law, Not a Snake
While your spouse may be required by the court to keep the health insurance for the children, he or she will be unable to maintain the health insurance for you after the divorce.
If your spouse works for a company that employs 20 or more people, then you are eligible to apply for continued health insurance coverage in his employer’s plan under a Federal law known as “COBRA” (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act).
If the company has fewer than 20 employees, you might still be eligible for continued coverage under the mini-COBRA coverage laws of your state. Most states have mini-COBRA, except Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. State mini-COBRA terms can differ quite significantly from those provided by the standard federal COBRA, so you’ll need to research the coverage terms and eligibility rules. Here’s a helpful website: http://www.cobrainsurancedirect.com/COBRA-Insurance.html
The 60 Day Rule
Your spouse’s employer is required to provide COBRA coverage for you, but only if you notify the health plan administrator within 60 days of becoming divorced. If you don’t give the administrator proper notice, then you will not be eligible for COBRA coverage.
Coverage Through Your Own Employer May be Cheaper
You may not want to be covered under COBRA if you can obtain health insurance through your employer. This is because your spouse’s employer is probably paying for all or a portion of your current health insurance premium.
Under COBRA, you will be responsible for the entire amount of the premium. (Actually, you may be charged 102% of the cost of the group rate.)
If your employer provides health insurance for you at little or no charge to you, then you are better off obtaining health insurance through your employer. But, for people who do not have this option, COBRA may be their only viable choice.
Before you opt for the COBRA coverage, check out other private plans such as Blue Cross, to compare the benefits and the cost. You may find options that are less expensive and more permanent than the COBRA coverage.
One way to find a list of these private insurers is to ask the personnel at your doctors’ offices what insurance plans they accept, and which ones make payments that are the most hassle-free.
COBRA Coverage Ends in 36 Months
COBRA coverage for a former spouse ends within 36 months. So, you need to be prepared for this coverage to end and new health insurance to take its place.
If you have questions about the impact of preexisting conditions on obtaining new health insurance once the COBRA coverage expires, you should contact someone who is knowledgeable about the different kinds of health insurance plans available in your area.
If you are healthy, consider a private plan rather than taking the COBRA coverage for three years. If you took the COBRA coverage and became ill during the three-year period, you might find that you were uninsurable at the end of three years, when the COBRA coverage expired. A private plan, rather than a group plan under COBRA, would facilitate continuing coverage and might be worth any extra expense.
Note: This information is not to be considered legal advice to create an attorney-client relationship. Laws and practices vary from state to state. Taking legal information out of context generally has negative consequences. If you have questions relating to your particular matter, you should contact an attorney in your state for advice.