Divorce can affect all aspects of your finances – including your health insurance. With health care costs climbing higher and higher, it is extremely important to understand the insurance implications of your divorce early on in the process. This is an especially important subject if your health insurance has been provided by your spouse’s employer.
If you have relied on your spouse for your health insurance, this does not necessarily mean that you will lose your coverage when you separate. In some divorce proceedings, a court will insist that until the divorce is finalized, one spouse must provide the other with the same level of health insurance coverage that he or she had during the marriage.
Once you are divorced, your situation will likely change. If you have been receiving your health insurance through your spouse’s employer, you will not be able to remain on the policy as a spouse after your divorce has been finalized. But there are still ways for you to stay on the policy, at least temporarily.
Because of COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), you can choose to keep your insurance coverage for up to 36 months after your eligibility for coverage ends. While you are receiving COBRA benefits, the law requires the insurance provider to keep giving you the same level of coverage you had when you were married.
Once your divorce is finalized, there will most likely be a period of sixty days during which you can make a decision about whether you want COBRA Continuation Health Coverage. You should be aware that if you decide to keep your coverage via COBRA, you will most likely pay a significantly higher rate for your benefits. You should also keep in mind that you will lose your COBRA benefits if you remarry, even if the 36 months are not up yet.
Options Other Than COBRA
In the past, when someone lost their health insurance coverage following a divorce, it was often difficult for them to find new coverage, especially if they had a pre-existing condition. The passage of the Affordable Care Act has changed things somewhat. If your COBRA benefits run out – or you choose not to sign up for COBRA because of the high cost of payments – you may be find that coverage under the Affordable Care Act is your more cost-effective option.
Also, if you are not yet divorced, and you are concerned about the possible loss of your health insurance coverage, you may be able to reach an agreement with your spouse that will preserve your insurance. For example, the two of you may decide to remain legally separated until you are old enough to receive Medicare benefits. Another option is for you and your spouse to sign an agreement which guarantees that your spouse will pay (in full or in part) for your health insurance coverage after the divorce.
What About Health Insurance For Our Children?
If your spouse provides health insurance for your child (or children), this adds another factor to be considered in your divorce proceedings.
If you or your spouse will be paying child support, you should know that it is common for child support orders In Florida to contain a provision for the child’s health insurance. Under Florida Statute 61.13, each order for child support will have such a provision, so long as it the health insurance is “reasonable in cost and accessible to the child.”
The insurance is considered reasonable in cost if it amounts to less than five percent of the gross income of the parent paying child support. It is considered accessible to the child if it is available to be used in the county of the child’s primary residence – or in another county, if the parent who the child primarily lives with agrees. (There are circumstances, however, in which a court may find that forcing a parent to pay for the child’s health insurance would be inappropriate, even if the insurance is available, and it costs less than five percent of the parent’s gross income.)
It is also important to note that parents who pay for their children’s health costs receive credits. Florida’s child support guidelines mandate credits for health insurance costs, as well as other costs, such as daycare expenses. If a court orders a parent to pay for his or her child’s health insurance costs, and that same parent pays for child support costs, then the amount of the health insurance costs will be deducted from the total amount the parent is required to pay in child support.
Speaking to a Lawyer
Health insurance coverage and divorce law are both extremely confusing subjects, and very few people are aware of their rights in these areas. If you are getting divorced, and you have concerns about what will happen to your health insurance coverage – or if you have concerns about what how much you will need to spend to maintain health insurance coverage for your spouse or your children – you should consider contacting a lawyer. This is not the type of thing you should leave up to chance.
Health insurance costs are often an important issue of contention in divorce proceedings, and as such, an experienced family law attorney will be able to provide you with knowledgeable assistance. Many lawyers have experience with alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation With alternative dispute resolution, you and your spouse may be able to work out an arrangement in which both your needs are met.