During a marriage, each family member usually has medical insurance through one spouse’s employer sponsored group policy. Alternatively, one spouse can be the owner of an individual medical insurance policy that covers the entire family. When parties get divorced, the spouse who is not the employee of the employer group policy or is not the owner of the individual policy will no longer be able to stay on the medical insurance policy. What is the spouse who loses his/her insurance to do?
There are options that must be explored before any settlement agreement is finalized or before a divorce hearing. Cost and coverages of various options need to be investigated. Coverage of preexisting conditions, deductibles, policy limits must be considered.
One option is for the spouse losing insurance to apply for his or her own medical insurance policy. That party can apply for COBRA benefits through the group medical insurance of the spouse who has employer group medical coverage. That will enable the party losing insurance to remain covered on the ex-spouse’s employer plan. The problem with COBRA is that it is expensive and temporary in that it lasts only 36 months.
Note that some employer group medical insurance policies consider a legal separation (which occurs before the date of the final order of the divorce) to be a triggering event that will discontinue coverage for the spouse who has insurance though his/her spouse’s employer group policy.
Another option is to investigate obtaining your own individual medical insurance policy either through a private insurance company or the Affordable Care Act.
Eligibility for health coverage through Medicare should be considered for immediate coverage or coverage in the future.
Finally, you and your spouse can agree to delay obtaining a divorce to allow the spouse who would lose insurance to remain on the other spouse’s group policy.
During the divorce process, the spouse who is either the owner of an individual policy covering the family or has an employer sponsored group policy covering the family should maintain this insurance. A court has the power to order the spouse to keep the other spouse covered by medical insurance during the divorce process until a final order of divorce is entered.