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How long can I stay on my ex's health insurance?

As is often the case, during the marriage, one spouse carries health insurance for the family. Once a husband and wife are in the divorce or dissolution process, one of the biggest questions is what happens with the health insurance. 

Once a divorce or dissolution is filed, parties are often prohibited from changing any insurance coverage. This includes vehicle insurance, life insurance or, in this case, health insurance. Even if the "open enrollment" period occurs during an active divorce, the current coverage must remain in place. In other words, no one should be taken off insurance until the divorce or dissolution is finalized.

Upon a Decree of Divorce or Dissolution being issued by the court, health insurance can and should change. Insurance companies will not cover former spouses on the insured's plan. This is also the case on Legal Separations, which used to be one way to separate all debts and assets but remain on the spouse's insurance. That is no longer the case. Even Legal Separations give rise the other spouse being taken off insurance.

If the spouse without insurance coverage does not have access to health insurance coverage immediately upon the ending of the marriage, there is an option to remain covered by your ex's insurance but not under their plan. The spouse without the insurance has the option of paying for the same coverage they had under their ex's insurance but at full rate. The person needing coverage can obtain COBRA coverage under their own separate policy through the ex-spouse's insurance.

COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) was first enacted in 1985 to provide health insurance to those who no longer qualified for an employer-provided plan. COBRA is available for most business that has twenty or more employees and offers a health insurance plan with very few exceptions. Upon a final Decree being filed, the non-covered spouse has sixty days to file to receive COBRA, which should be the same level of coverage that the person had while they were under their spouse's insurance coverage. It includes health, dental and vision.

The big difference comes in the cost. Unlike the employer-provided coverage, in which the employer is paying a portion of the insurance, under COBRA, a person is responsible for 100% of the cost of the insurance plus a two percent surcharge for the company to continue to provide the coverage. COBRA can last up to 36 months after the end of the marriage. All payments, for COBRA, must be made on time or the coverage will terminate.

Another big exception to the COBRA laws are those covered under the military or government insurance. Rather than COBRA, government employees can seek to extend coverage under Temporary Continuation of Coverage (TCC) for up to 36 months.

If you are a military ex-spouse, you may be able to continue with your same health insurance coverage (Tri-Health) so long as you were married for at least 20 years and the military spouse has been in the military for at least 20 years. Lastly, the period of military service and marriage must have co-existed for at least 20 years. If you meet the 20/20/20 requirements, you should be able to establish your own health insurance coverage through Tri-Health. If you meet the first two requirements but the period of "co-existence" is less than 20 but more than 15 years, you should qualify for full coverage for a year after the divorce or dissolution. If you do not meet the criteria for 20/20/20 or 20/20/15, you may still qualify for transitional health insurance but at a cost to you. Like COBRA, you must enroll in the transitional program within 60 days of the Decree being filed and coverage will last up to 36 months.

This blog is intended to be general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. To further discuss this, or other matters regarding your specific circumstances, please contact any of our domestic relations attorneys. 

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