When Divorcing, How do You Handle Health Insurance?

Because most people have an employer provided insurance policy that covers the entire family, divorce can cause serious problems. The person formerly covered by his or her spouse’s employer is left without coverage, and there’s no way to circumvent this. There is only one way to continue benefits if neither party has adequate health insurance, or if acquiring COBRA or a separate insurance policy proves too pricey, which is to delay divorce but enter into a separation agreement. During a separation both parties are still considered married and, thus, can keep their original health insurance plan for the time being.

What Is COBRA Coverage?

COBRA is a federal law mandating that a person– as long as they meet certain criteria– be allowed to keep their coverage for certain period of time after a divorce, at their own cost. This allows the uncovered spouse to retain his or her coverage plan through the other party’s employer (or from wherever they get their insurance). This helps if one’s former insurance coverage was particularly good. COBRA lasts 36 months, at which point one must find their own insurance– though it can be extended another 18 months in certain circumstances. But what if COBRA isn’t an option and you aren’t getting a separation. . . ?

Other Options for the Divorced Spouse

If COBRA doesn’t work for you there are three other options available: (1) You can get coverage through your employer– if you have one. If it’s affordable then you should compare the cost of COBRA against your own employer’s plan. (2) If you’re the wife, request health insurance as a part of the settlement. Talk with your lawyer and see whether this is possible rather than simply focusing on alimony payments. It may not work; but, if it does, you can save paying for an entirely new policy or COBRA payments, which are around $700 per month. The added price of health insurance can be quite a shock to a newly divorced wife. (3) Purchase your own individual health coverage, which may be your only option and, sometimes, your best. You’ll have to pay for your own coverage, but you have many policy options. If you’re not in ongoing medical treatment, then there are many benefits– such as no co-pays, deductibles, and waiting periods.

If you’re planning on filing for divorce you should focus on finding sufficient health insurance coverage through COBRA, your employer, as part of your settlement, or individually.

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