Are Ex-Spouses Entitled To Medical Insurance Post-Divorce?

Are you going through a divorce in the Bonney Lake area? At Bolan Law Group., we fully understand the inherent stress and emotions a legal separation can entail and are here to assist you in navigating each and every aspect of the judicial process.

The sheer number and complexity of issues you must consider when getting divorced can be overwhelming and intimidating, and you may be overlooking several less-obvious, albeit essential, details that can have lasting effects on your future time, money, and assets. One such commonly neglected component is the issue of how your divorce will impact your medical insurance benefits.

If you have received medical insurance via your former significant other’s employer, your coverage via your former partner will be terminated on the last day of the month that your divorce proceedings are made final – after which time, it will be your responsibility to coordinate a separate medical insurance plan for yourself. Fortunately, you are not required to wait for an open enrollment window to roll around. A divorce automatically makes you eligible to register for medical insurance benefits regardless of whether it is an active enrollment timeframe or not.

Alternatively, if your employer has an available health care insurance plan, you should register as soon as possible in the event of a divorce. If your employer does not offer health care insurance plans, you will need to make plans to acquire medical insurance coverage through an independent third-party entity. A potential option may be your ex-husband’s or wife’s employer. Larger companies are required to offer former husbands or wives of their employees Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health insurance policies for a period of 36 months. However, the responsible party (either you or your ex-spouse, depending on what the court orders) is responsible for paying the entire premium applicable under COBRA insurance coverage and is not entitled to the employer subsidy that employees would receive. Thus, COBRA health insurance coverage is typically more expensive, so you should take the time to explore alternative options before enrolling in COBRA.

If COBRA is unavailable in your situation, or you choose not to enroll due to the high cost, and you do not have insurance available through your own employer, you will need to buy a health insurance plan independently via Washington State’s health insurance exchange. All plans offered through the exchange are screened by the state government to comply with strict benefit and quality standards. Essential services are covered, including doctor visits, emergency room services, medical prescriptions, maternity care, preventive care and more, and you will not be denied health insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition. If you fail to obtain your own medical insurance policy, not only do you run the risk of paying for any health-related expenses out-of-pocket, but you will also be assessed a hefty annual penalty – which amounted to $2,085 in 2017.

If you currently are enrolled in an independent medical care coverage plan, you will have to get in touch with your insurance provider to update their records due to the change in your marital status. Both you and your former spouse will then be assigned new individual coverage plans.

There are some alternative options to stay covered under your ex-spouse’s health insurance plan if you can both agree to put off the finalization of your divorce proceedings. There are some employers who will permit legally separated couples to stay covered on the employed individual’s medical insurance policy; however, this is not the case with each and every employer. You must review your contract to determine if this is a potential avenue for you. Additionally, there is no guarantee that an employer, who presently allows legally separated former couples to stay on an employee’s health insurance plan, will retain that practice in the future. If you are considering this as an option, you and your former partner can obtain a legal separation in lieu of a divorce. In many aspects, a legal separation is identical to a divorce: all the property and debts are assigned, various forms of support obligations are established, and custody arrangements for any minors are set. The primary distinguishing characteristic between a legal separation and a formal divorce is that you and your former partner are still legally married, thus neither you nor your spouse can can remarry during the period of legal separation.

Another potential solution is to draft a Separation Contract instead of pursuing either a divorce or legal separation. Per Washington statute, the Separation Contract accomplishes the majority of goals that a legal separation does – the exception being that you and your former partner will not be legally separated. The majority of employers will not deny spousal health insurance plans in the event the individuals are simply living separately but are not separated via judicial process. There are a number of pros and cons of entering into a Separation Contract, and it is vital to have the document prepared by an experienced and competent divorce attorney who can advise you of all applicable areas of possible concern.

The staggering financial burden of obtaining optimal health care in the United States makes having a valid health insurance policy in place an absolute necessity for all individuals, regardless of his or her current marital status. It is essential to incorporate the provision of continued, long-term health insurance coverage in your plans for the years following your divorce, as a component of your overall divorce planning process, so you do not encounter any unfortunate, unforeseen consequences that can cost you significant time and money. There are very few individuals that have the financial resources to foot a bill for a sudden medical treatment without having a solid health care policy.

Divorce is stressful enough as it is. The good news is that you do not have to face it alone. For over 30 years, our Washington state family law legal team has successfully assist our clients in navigating the multitude of legal concerns that can stem from divorce proceedings and other complex family law issues. We fully understand that these can be some of the most trying and difficult times that our clients face. Please contact our Bonney Lake family law attorneys for more information on how we can assist you in addressing all of your family law concerns and questions. Give us a call today.

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