How Your Health Insurance Coverage May Be Affected by Divorce
If you are separated and are relying on your estranged spouse to provide you with health insurance coverage through an employer’s group health insurance plan or other policy maintained by your spouse, your health insurance coverage may be in jeopardy. One concern is that your estranged spouse may be able to remove you as an insured, terminate your coverage, or allow your policy to lapse without your knowledge or consent. With the increasing cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, a lapse in health insurance coverage can have devastating financial consequences to a spouse with serious health problems or who has a medical emergency.
Additionally, divorce affects your ability to remain eligible for continued coverage if your health insurance is through your spouse’s employer’s group health insurance plan. However, some group health insurance plans may treat legal separation and divorce the same. If you remain eligible to continue to be covered through your spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance during separation, it is crucial that you raise this issue early in the separation. Your attorney may be successful in getting your spouse to voluntarily agree to continue to provide you with health insurance during separation or, your attorney can petition the court to require your spouse to provide you with health insurance, or pay the cost of your premiums, as part of your claim for post-separation support and/or alimony.
Once your divorce is finalized, you will no longer qualify as a family member who is eligible for coverage through your former spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan. Depending on your spouse’s employer and the type of insurance plan, you may be able to make a formal election to remain covered through the employer’s group health insurance for a limited time after divorce through a federal law known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), or you can obtain new health insurance coverage. You may find that health insurance offered through your employment or a private plan is less expensive than paying the COBRA insurance premiums. The website www.healthcare.gov can provide you with information to help you determine whether you qualify for subsidized health insurance through the federal health insurance exchange.
Unless you have a valid written agreement or a court order requiring your spouse to maintain health insurance coverage for your benefit as part of a spousal support obligation, your estranged spouse or former spouse may not be compelled to provide you with health insurance. Therefore, in the absence of an agreement or court order, it is your responsibility to make sure you have health insurance coverage.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.