Laurie M. Wasserman
What to Do About Health Insurance After Divorce
During the divorce process, many people worry about the cost of healthcare and medication, especially if those costs were shared with a soon-to-be-ex. For those who have shared a health insurance policy with their former spouse throughout their marriage, an absolute divorce means that the shared coverage will end.
With proper planning, there are options for health insurance after the divorce decree has been signed. Below, we have outlined the most common steps to take to secure a new or existing health insurance policy in Maryland following a divorce.
Transferring to COBRA
In Maryland, a court can issue an order requiring the continuation of a married couple’s health insurance until the divorce is finalized. This means that during the divorce process, the spouse holding the insurance policy cannot drop the other spouse from the plan. In fact, some plans will not let a spouse change coverage until the divorce is finalized even if there is no court order (without proof of alternative coverage).
Generally, once a divorce is granted, a former spouse cannot stay on their exes’ insurance plan long-term. In the short term, however, a former spouse can remain on their exes’ health plan for a limited period post-divorce.
Continuation of health coverage following a divorce is commonly provided by COBRA, an act provided by the US Department of Labor that allows individuals to hold on to their health benefits following certain qualifying life events. A COBRA plan lasts up to 18 months in Maryland, and individuals must enroll within 60 days following their divorce to qualify for coverage. COBRA is only available for those who received a health insurance group plan from their spouse’s place of employment for over 3 months. However, former spouses may need to brace themselves for a hefty increase to the cost of their premiums following the transfer to COBRA, as the portion of the insurance payments previously subsidized by the group plan falls to the individual. COBRA coverage also does not qualify for financial assistance from the federal government. While COBRA coverage comes at a high cost, it is a good option to consider if you do not have insurance post-divorce.
Look Into Open Enrollment Options
Many people utilize COBRA as a temporary stopgap before signing up for their employer’s open enrollment health insurance plan. If the open enrollment period for a 2022 health insurance plan has ended, individuals still do have options for alternative coverage. Divorced individuals — and others who have experienced major life events — can qualify for the Special Enrollment Period to explore other health insurance options. Depending on the plan, the enrollment period lasts 60 days following the finalization of the divorce.
Individuals who qualify can also enroll in Medicaid at any time of the year. To qualify, the individual must fall below a certain household income level (as well as pregnant women, elderly adults, and disabled people).
If an employer-based plan or Medicaid are not options, you can also look at insurance options on the Health Insurance Exchange in accordance with the Affordable Care Act. A life-changing event such as divorce will allow you to qualify for special enrollment outside of open enrollment.
What About the Children?
If one parent qualifies for continued, employer-based health insurance, the children you share with your former spouse are eligible to receive coverage until they turn 26, however, parents are not legally required as part of the divorce to maintain insurance for their children after the child turns 18.
If both co-parents receive a family-based health insurance policy through their employers, the parents can choose which policy shall cover the children. Additionally, parents can choose to have the child covered by both policies, one as a primary policy and the other as a secondary policy. The cost to the parent for providing health insurance coverage to children is something that is taken into consideration when calculating child support, so this is something to discuss with a family law attorney.
If neither parent can afford to pay for their child’s health insurance, the child may qualify for the Maryland Children’s Health Program, often referred to as MCHP, which subsidizes the cost of healthcare until the child reaches the age of 19.
Talk to Your Attorney About a Settlement
If you remain unsure as to how you will afford, or even find quality health insurance after your divorce, talk to your family law attorney about reaching an agreement with your former spouse before the divorce is finalized. Your family law attorney can help you negotiate terms that make post-divorce health insurance coverage affordable. If you have any further questions regarding health insurance coverage, either before or after your divorce settlement, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.
If you have questions about health insurance and divorce, please contact Laurie Wasserman at email@example.com or 410-842-1070. The legal team at the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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