Heath Insurance and Divorce
Key Points
  • You or your spouse may have employer-provided health insurance for you, your spouse and children. Now with a pending divorce, you need to look at your health insurance coverage, if you are covered at all.
  • If you were under your spouse’s health insurance coverage, you may no longer be eligible for this coverage. Health insurance is something you should be discussing with your spouse, especially who will be covering the children.
  • Going without health insurance is not a calculated risk, it is not a very smart decision in the wake of a divorce. Financially, should you require an emergency visit or your children require an emergency visit, the hospital bills alone could mean financial disaster.

Health insurance is all too easy to overlook ... until you really need it. Keep a couple of things in mind as you investigate your options.

What is medical insurance?

Medical (also known as health) insurance is a contract between you and an insurance company under which, in exchange for your premium payments, the insurance company agrees to pay for medical expenses which you incur under the terms of the contract.

What are the different types of medical insurance?

Employer-provided medical insurance - The best source for medical insurance today is your employer-provided plan since its cost is most likely subsidized by your employer. These medical plans are generally one of four types: indemnity plans, service provider plans, preferred provider plans or health maintenance organizations.

Individual medical insurance - Medical policies are available directly from insurance companies for individuals. The advantage of this type of policy is that you may shop the type of benefits you want. The disadvantage is you have to pay the whole cost.

Medicare - Medicare provides mandatory basic hospitalization benefits for all U.S. citizens over the age of 65 under Part A coverage. Part B coverage is a voluntary program that provides coverage for doctor bills at a monthly cost to you. Medicare typically covers only half of the average senior citizen’s health care bills. You can supplement it with Medigap insurance.

You may no longer be covered

If you were covered under your spouse’s health policy, you will probably be ineligible for this coverage after you are legally separated or divorced. If this is your situation, you should lose no time in finding out how you can replace your health insurance. If you work and have access to an employer-sponsored health plan that you don’t currently belong to, find out how soon you can join it. Employer-sponsored plans often have specific enrollment periods. Most plans do allow employees to rejoin even after they’ve opted out, if their life circumstances change because of a separation, divorce or death.

COBRA will provide coverage

COBRA is the federal law that entitles you to continued coverage in an employer’s group health plan, even if you’ve become ineligible to participate because of job loss or divorce. If you were covered under your spouse’s employer-sponsored health plan policy prior to your divorce or legal separation, you and your children should still be entitled to continued coverage under COBRA. However, the employer who sponsors the plan no longer has to subsidize the premium for this coverage. It must be paid in full by you or by your former spouse. What your COBRA rights give you is continuity of insurance, plus the benefit of a group rate and broader health coverage than you could buy in an individual policy. You should check with your employer for more specific information, because not all companies are required to provide COBRA benefits.

It is very risky to go without any medical coverage

You have so much grapple with and think about during this period of change and turmoil you probably feel overwhelmed -- but your health should always be a top priority. Financially, it’s extremely risky to go without any medical insurance. If you have no other coverage available to you, at the very least you should consider buying a policy that would cover the cost of a catastrophic medical emergency, even if it doesn’t cover you for routine medical expenses.

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PROTECTION AFTER DIVORCE -- COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, protects ex-spouses even after one of them remarries, for a fixed period of time, as well as employees who lose their positions. COBRA establishes a time line for picking up coverage (which must be religiously observed), and it is very expensive.

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