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How long can I stay on my husband’s health insurance after divorce?

What you focus on is what you succeed at. This is a favorite saying of talk radio host/financial guru, Dave Ramsey. Although it’s grammar may not be entirely correct it is a good point. On his nationally syndicated radio show, The Dave Ramsey Show, Mr. Ramsey counsels men and women on how to get out of debt and build wealth. The main thrust of his “debt snowball” method of eradicating debt is to stop all investing (retirement, college) and put all money that you can towards your smallest debt. Once that little debt is paid, you move on to the next largest debt. So on and so forth until all debt is paid and the “snowball” grows and grows. Hence, calling it the debt snowball method. 

Mr. Ramsey’s main point is this: if you have your attention focused squarely on one thing you are more likely to succeed at accomplishing that one thing. The analogy he uses frequently on his show is what happened when you began to court your future husband/wife. You likely placed all (or at least most) of your energy on dating that person. Instead of dating around, etc. you spent a lot of time with your spouse-to-be. As a result, you were able to woo him/her effectively and voila- you got engaged and then married. Mission Accomplished. 

Whether it is in regard to paying off debt, wooing a future spouse or getting divorced the reality of your situation is that if you cannot focus on something you will not be able to achieve that goal. There are just too many distractions in life for you to be able to do something that difficult. Divorce is no different than any of these other goals that you may have. Often at the sacrifice of other worthy goals, you put certain parts of your life to the side when it comes to getting through your divorce. 

Health insurance and its relationship to your health overall

One of those areas that you may be forced to set aside for a few months during your divorce case is your health. Divorce is hard. It can take a long time to complete. It is stressful. It is unpleasant. There is no use in me sugarcoating these things. We all know that divorce is no fun. Your family life may suffer during the divorce. Your work life may suffer. Even your relationship with your kids is likely to suffer. It is up to you whether or not your health with suffer.

Unfortunately, it is necessary for your life to be focused more on your divorce than on other areas of your life while the case is ongoing. You may be able to get out for a walk or run every once in a while, but I am willing to bet that your energy levels will be down during the divorce. I am also willing to bet that your stress levels will be way up. Dollars to donuts (no pun intended) you will be more excited to dive into a bowl of ice cream in the evening than go for a quick run around the neighborhood. 

In the context of your health, in our day and age we are more aware of the importance of health insurance than seemingly any generation before ours. When you are in need of a doctor having health insurance is what can prevent you from experiencing a severe financial hardship. In the event that you have been on your spouse’s health insurance plan for years it may not have even occurred to you that you are going to need to find an alternative for health insurance now that you have filed for divorce. 

In the remainder of today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to take some time to discuss health insurance in relation to a divorce in Texas. How long you can stay on their health insurance plan, what your options are for coverage and many other important details will be discussed. I have found that this is a topic that many people do not think about during the divorce but wish they had. 

Do not take your health for granted- now or in the future

The most important thing for you to be aware of in relation to your health is that you cannot afford to take your foot off the proverbial pedal when it comes to self-care. Even in the middle of a truly difficult experience like a divorce, you need to be able to care for yourself and look out for yourself in relation to health. Yes, doing the “little things” like drinking enough water, eating right, getting enough sleep, etc. is a good place to start. However, not considering the impact of your divorce on your health insurance coverage is a critical part of that equation. 

Many of you reading this have health insurance coverage through a workplace plan provided by your spouse’s employer. If you have been married for a long time then you may not even think twice about always being covered by a health insurance plan. However, you need to be aware that once your divorce is final your spouse has no obligation to keep you on his plan. Additionally, it is unlikely that the insurance provider will even allow him to keep you on the plan even if your ex-husband wanted to make sure you were covered. 

In an ideal world, there will be no gaps your insurance coverage. You will go from being covered under your spouse’s health insurance plan to being covered by another form of health insurance. Whether that coverage is permanent of temporary, you need to be able to have coverage in the time period immediately following the divorce. This is a period of time that you are especially vulnerable from a financial perspective. Adding uncovered medical expenses can make a bad situation even worse for you. 

Fortunately for you, there will be ample opportunities to negotiate with your spouse in regard to health insurance coverage. Health insurance for your kids is a subject that is tied to child support. Assuming that you will have primary custody of your children, your ex-spouse will be tasked with the responsibility of both paying you child support and providing health insurance for your children. However- you are not going to be a part of that coverage as we discussed earlier in today’s blog post

COBRA health insurance to fill the gap between divorce and post-divorce life

Since your spouse will not be able to provide you with insurance coverage after the divorce you will need to figure out a plan B to make sure that there are no gaps in coverage once you are removed from your spouse’s health insurance plan. However, if your spouse works for a larger sized company (one that employs more than 20 people) then you will be eligible to apply for what is known as COBRA insurance. COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. You can ask to remain as an insured under that health insurance plan for a period of time after you are removed as an insured due to the divorce. 

However, if your spouse works for a smaller company you will need to determine what your health insurance options are. You may still be able to ask for COBRA coverage in this situation. These are mini plans that are offered through the COBRA program which covers much of the same things as the larger COBRA plan. 

You will have up to sixty days to notify your spouse’s health insurance of your divorce and your desire to remain as an insured under that health insurance plan. Otherwise, if you fail to provide sufficient notice to the plan administrator then you will not be able to take advantage of the ability to remain on as an insured party. 

Contact the health insurance plan through your own employer

Another option that you can choose to take advantage of if you do not want to get on with a COBRA plan would be to obtain insurance coverage through a plan with your own employer. The COBRA plan will likely see you paying all of the premiums and sometimes even more than other folks under the plan have to pay. The cost alone may make it a better deal for you to seek coverage through your own employer.

A good plan of action may be for you to contact your primary care doctor and any other treatment providers where you go on a regular basis. You can ask them to give you their advice on what option works better for you. If neither is palatable, you may need to go about checking in on what can be purchased through the health insurance marketplace. There are a lot of factors to consider- too numerous for us to mention them all here. 

How long does COBRA coverage last after your divorce?

When you choose to take advantage of coverage through your former spouse’s health insurance plan you will be covered for up to three years. Even if you choose to take advantage of this coverage for the whole period of three years you will eventually need to develop an exit strategy for how to deal with the issue of health insurance after that. Otherwise, you may need to deal with obtaining new coverage before the end of this three year period if the costs associated with paying the premiums are too high for you. 

Other pieces of important information

In the time we have remaining today, I would like to give you a few more pieces of information to chew on as you weigh your options and gain insight into this important topic.

I have not explicitly said so already, but in Texas your spouse is not able to drop you from their health insurance plan while the divorce is ongoing. The standing orders of your home county or temporary orders will bar him or her from doing so. You do not need to worry about losing coverage prior to the date on which your final decree of divorce is signed by the judge. 

There are options other than COBRA and getting on a health insurance plan provided by your employer. As I mentioned briefly before, you can look at the health insurance marketplace to see if there is a plan that works for you. You have up to sixty days after your divorce to enroll in one of these plans. If you fail to get on a plan within sixty days then you will have to wait until an open enrollment period to do so. 

Otherwise, you can see if you qualify for Medicaid if you are a low income Texan who lacks the ability to afford health insurance coverage elsewhere. Being a single mother would assist you in being able to access this type of coverage. Finally, if you are an older Texan you may be Medicare eligible. There are multiple parts to Medicare coverage so you should contact any of the phone numbers made available through the government in order to educate yourself on those options if you are of age to do so.

Questions about divorce in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any additional questions on this or any other subject in relation to divorce in Texas please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your particular circumstances. 

Our office takes a great deal of pride in representing our neighbors here in southeast Texas. Our attorneys are inside the family courts of Harris, Ft. Bend, Montgomery, Galveston, and Brazoria counties (to name just a few) advocating on behalf of our clients and their families every single day. Contact us with any questions you may have or to schedule a consultation. 

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