What Happens to Health Insurance When Couples Divorce?
Medical care is known to be one of the more expensive, but necessary, items to hit a person’s budget. Most people seek medical insurance through an employer, if available, to defray the costs of obtaining coverage, and most families are covered under one spouse’s insurance – usually the one that offers the best coverage at an affordable price. Medical insurance is a valuable asset in today’s world, and when couples decide to divorce, one party will be left with the dilemma of how to replace it. If a person is lucky, his/her employer could offer health insurance, but it may not be a good policy, and even if it is, the cost could be too high to contemplate joining the plan. However, the worst situation a divorcing spouse could find him/herself facing is having no option to purchase employer-sponsored health insurance and trying to manage a number of pre-existing medical conditions that are expensive to treat. Does a person, who is reliant on the other spouse for health insurance, have any ability to maintain that coverage post-divorce? Additionally, there is the issue of who will provide health insurance for the children, and how that expense will be divided between each parent. A discussion of an individual’s options for health insurance after divorce, and how health insurance for children is handled in this situation, will be explored below.
Insurance Options for a Divorcing Spouse
Anyone facing a serious and/or chronic health condition is understandably anxious when it comes to securing sufficient health insurance coverage so they may receive necessary treatment. Serious health concerns can force a person to reduce time at work, change careers into a less demanding and lower-paying field, or stop working entirely. This presents a real problem in the context of divorce. Federal law requires health insurance providers that contract with companies that employ 20 or more employees to provide the same level of temporary coverage, known as COBRA, to an ex-spouse for 36 months after a divorce is finalized. Divorce is one of several qualifying events that obligate an insurance company to offer enrollment in a plan or the continuation of coverage – marriage, birth of a child, and loss of employment are examples of other qualifying events. Thus, divorce waives enrollment restrictions, and allows the spouse losing coverage to obtain previously-declined insurance with an employer or buy coverage in the marketplace. Note that ex-spouses have 60 days after the divorce decree is issued to contact the insurance company and elect to enroll in the COBRA program. However, the big issue with COBRA is the high cost. Most group health plans are subsidized (or partially subsidized) by the employer, which is lost when the legal relationship with the employee is severed by divorce. Further, health insurance companies are permitted to add an additional premium above what the employer is paying that only adds to the high cost. This situation often results in monthly premiums of over $1,000 for one person.
The law does not require an ex-spouse to cover the cost of health insurance, but this issue may be negotiated as part of a divorce settlement. In addition, courts will scrutinize divorces that could leave one party indigent due to serious health issues, and lead a judge to give the spouse with lesser means a greater share of the marital property, or order the other spouse to pay alimony.
Health Insurance for Children
Typically, health insurance for children will remain the responsibility of the primary provider, as it is the easiest way to resolve this matter. But, in any event, Florida law requires one parent, typically the one ordered to pay child support, provide health insurance for a child following divorce, as long as the cost is reasonable and the coverage is accessible. The cost is considered reasonable if the additional amount does not exceed five percent of the obligated parent’s gross monthly income. Coverage is considered accessible if the policy includes the county where the child primarily lives, or another county if agreed to by the parent with the greater share of parenting time. If the parent receiving support provides health insurance for the child, the other parent may be required to reimburse this cost.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Maintaining health insurance coverage after divorce is a serious concern for many people, and if you have questions about the effect divorce has your rights and benefits, talk to a divorce attorney about what you should expect. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. has a team of dedicated attorneys ready to help you with your case. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+