It is essential that prior to the end of your divorce that you have a good idea of what your plan will be as far as health insurance for yourself and your children. This is a topic that is often times disregarded during the months-long process of getting a divorce. I think this is a bad idea and I counsel clients frequently and making sure that they have a proper plan in place as far as how to protect their health and ensure that coverage is place for themselves and their family after the divorce has concluded.
I often times write about how choices and options are a good thing when it comes to divorce. You do not want to be a position, for instance, where you are having to go a certain route only because you don’t have a choice. Or, your two choices are equally bad and as a result you end up picking the least bad of two terrible options. Health insurance is no different. You want to have options to choose from, but sometimes the sheer volume of options for you to consider when it comes to health insurance can be daunting.
Private health insurance, employer provided health insurance, government funded health insurance, Obamacare, and the list goes on and on. You could spend a week straight looking into everything from pricing to coverage to doctor’s office locations and still not have everything covered as far as your insurance is concerned. With a full time job, parenting responsibilities and a divorce to keep your attention you probably don’t have the time or the inclination to look into health insurance coverage all day and all night.
That is exactly why I wanted to spend some time with you all today here on our blog. The ability for you to keep your spouse on your insurance after the divorce is just one of many, many questions that we here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan receive regarding issues related to health insurance and divorce. Rather than to allow you to go into your divorce with these questions on your mind here is some of the information that I believe would be most advantageous for you to possess as you begin your own divorce.
What health insurance options will be available to you after your divorce?
Depending on your location here in our state, the amount of money that you have to pay for insurance and your current status as it relates to coverage, you will not suffer from a lack of options as they relate to health insurance.
If you or your spouse’s employer provided you with health insurance then that is the first place you can look to for post-divorce insurance coverage. Of course, if it is your spouse’s employer who is providing you with insurance then you will likely need to look elsewhere for coverage since most policies do not cover ex-spouses. Many folks will simply go on the open market and pay for a private health insurance plan that meets their needs most well. Another option that could work well for you if you believe that you are losing your health insurance is to find an Obamacare policy that covers your needs.
Medicare, Medicaid and COBRA are three options that vary in availability and coverage which may be options for you. COBRA would allow you to remain on your spouse’s insurance for a period of time while you attempt to find more permanent coverage. The cost of COBRA can be prohibitive for many persons, however. Medicaid and Medicare are government provided health insurance which have age/income hurdles that you may need to clear before eligibility sets in.
At least during the divorce, your spouse will not be able to drop you from insurance coverage. This is due to the standing orders or temporary orders that go into effect during a divorce. The order explicitly denies your spouse the ability to drop you from their health insurance policy for as long as the divorce persists. COBRA coverage needs to be initiated within 60 days of your divorce by contacting the employer of your spouse and notifying them of your intent to remain on the plan.
What about keeping your spouse on your health insurance after the divorce?
Let’s tackle the question posed in the title of today’s blog post. Specifically, are you able to keep your ex-spouse on your health insurance plan after your divorce has already concluded? The law in the United States is that once your divorce occurs, health insurance coverage ends as well if your insurance is had through your spouse. Coverage that we just finished talking about through COBRA would last for an additional 36 months, potentially.
How can you take advantage of COBRA? Well, first and foremost your ex-spouse’s employer must have more than 20 employees. Otherwise you may be able to take advantage of programs similar to COBRA if your spouse’s employer is smaller than twenty persons. If you are the spouse who provides health insurance to your husband or wife you should ask your health insurance provider how they need to be notified of your divorce.
Typically a divorce does not impact your children’s ability to remain on your insurance or your spouse’s insurance. You should go ahead and phone the insurance provider to get more information on this, however. You and your spouse are obligated to provide your children with health insurance. That could mean providing your child with private health insurance or going through the government plans like Medicaid offered at the state level. Whichever parent is the one tasked with caring for the kids on a daily basis will usually be tasked with providing the children with health insurance.
Health insurance options in a worst-case scenario
It is usually the spouse who is reliant upon their husband or wife for insurance coverage who finds themselves worrying the most about health insurance as their divorce comes to a close. If you are facing the prospect of having to find new health insurance after your divorce then you should focus on what your options are. Additionally, while you look for health insurance during this period of time it is normal to have some gaps in coverage.
All in all, if you can stay on your spouse’s health insurance until an open enrollment period comes around that would likely be the best choice to take advantage of. If you and your spouse cannot agree on much or if he or she is upset wih you concerning the divorce I would not be surprised to see him or her attempt to stop your health insurance coverage as soon as the divorce concludes.
As I have mentioned to you a couple times already, COBRA comes into play when your spouse works for a business that employs 20 or more people. COBRA is a federal law that requires that you be eligible to apply for health insurance coverage through your spouse’s plan even after your divorce has been finalized. Importantly you will at most 60 days after your divorce in order to contact the health insurance plan administrator and request coverage.
The easiest route to take after a divorce and the one that allows for the least as far as transition after divorce is to simply remain on with your employer’s health insurance plan during and after the case. Or, if you are not currently on your employer’s plan you should look into when open enrollment is and see if that is an option worth taking right now. Keep in mind that since divorce is usually considered a significant life event that you can usually enroll whenever you would like during the year.
Obamacare provides health insurance eligibility through when your spouse or your employer do not allow for you to get on a plan. The affordable care act allows you to shop for various health insurance plan through the State of Texas exchange, the federal marketplace or in private marketplaces. You can get on with one of these plans within 60 days of your divorce- much in the same way that COBRA insurance is available within 60 days of your divorce.
Are short term policies available?
We have already talked about how there can be gaps in your insurance coverage after a divorce when you are having to transition from one type of coverage to another. This can be unavoidable in some cases no matter how forward thinking you have been. In that case, there are short term health insurance coverages that are available to people in your situation.
These type of plans allow you to get coverage within 24 hours of applying and can last for up to one year. You should do a search for these type of policies in the state of Texas if you are curious about the specifics of coverage and the application process. Many people like this option because you are able to choose the doctor that you want to see, as long as that doctor participates in the network.
How do you budget for health insurance after a divorce?
How much can you afford to spend on health insurance coverage? That is the first question that you need to ask yourself when you begin to budget for coverage after a divorce. If you need money to pay for health insurance you may need to request spousal maintenance in your divorce. You may also need to look at other areas of your life and adjust your spending so that you can be sure to be able to pay the health insurance premiums that are now required of you. For instance, whereas your prior plan may have had all the bells and whistles you could ask for, your current financial status may require that you have a more limited plan as you ease into your post-divorce life.
The details matter when it comes to selecting a health insurance plan after your divorce
Once you have figured out what your health insurance options are, you need to go over the details of each plan with a fine tooth comb to determine whether or not the plan suits you as well as you need it to. There should be a summary of benefits that tells you what you can take advantage of within the plan. Coverage for certain things will be stronger in some plans versus others. You should not plan on figuring these things out after your divorce or certainly not after you purchase a plan. Do so well in advance of losing your current insurance.
What options do you have in relation to Medicare?
If you are aged 60+ and are going through a divorce, don’t feel like you are alone. Many, many more people your age are going through divorce in today’s world than in generations past. While you are married you are eligible for free Medicare part A insurance. This would be provided either through your work history or through your spouse’s work history. Medicare taxes must have been paid for at least 40 quarters of your working life.
Once you get a divorce, however, you still have options for Medicare benefits depending upon your situation and your ex-spouse’s situation. You can also pay for Part A insurance under Medicare if neither you nor your spouse meet the work history requirements for eligibility.
Questions about health insurance and divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material that we have covered today 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 where we can answer your questions and address your issues directly. We appreciate the opportunity to serve our community in the family courts of southeast Texas. Sharing information with neighbors like you is one way that we can both provide you hints and tricks regarding Texas family law and inform you of the advantages of being a client of our law office. Thank you for your time.