A divorce upends every area of your life, which can make it all the more difficult—yet all the more critical—that nothing falls through the cracks. One of the key components of protecting your interests and building toward a better future is making sure that the details of healthcare insurance are covered in the terms of your divorce.
Healthcare Coverage for Ex-Spouses in Massachusetts
Many spouses share a healthcare plan, with one spouse being the main policyholder and the other spouse being a dependent on the other’s policy. If both spouses want to keep their current healthcare coverage after the divorce, they lack the option to simply not report the divorce. A failure to notify insurance of a legal separation or a divorce means that once the insurer finds out, they will come after those parties to recover the cost of all missed premiums.
In some cases, one spouse may have the option to simply find coverage through their own employer or to explore Medicaid or Medicare options.
COBRA Insurance & Healthcare Coverage After Divorce
For some, it may be beneficial to take advantage of Massachusetts’s COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) laws. For businesses with fewer than 20 employees, there is also mini-COBRA, which under the right circumstances could mean you can prolong healthcare coverage for up to 1 year. For healthcare plans of businesses that have at least 20 employees, COBRA can enable an ex-spouse to continue their current coverage for up to 18 or even 36 months. You would also have 60 days to decide whether or not to use COBRA insurance to keep your healthcare coverage.
While COBRA insurance can be a great option, it is not a cheap option. You would have to assume the full costs of the policy (in other words, the employer no longer has to cover this), including retroactive costs. These retroactive costs would include premiums for the past couple of months if, for instance, you waited the full 60 days before deciding to go with COBRA. While there would also be an administration fee on top of that, COBRA provides a useful backup plan for healthcare coverage if you can’t find something else within that timeframe.
It would mean that at least you won’t get dropped from medical insurance, and as this extended coverage goes month-to-month, you can also drop this coverage as soon as you find something better.
Insured vs. Self-Insured Healthcare Plans
The range of options that ex-spouses have for continuing their healthcare insurance plan will depend on the type of plan involved. If the plan is a self-insured, or self-funded one, then the employer is not obligated to keep the ex-spouse on the policy. If, however, it is an employer-sponsored health insurance, then the court will likely issue an order for the policyholder to keep their dependent spouse on the plan.
How Long Can an Ex-Spouse Stay on a Healthcare Plan?
In some cases, a Massachusetts Family Court judge might order one spouse to keep the other on their healthcare plan for the duration of the divorce. After the divorce is finalized, the court could require the dependent spouse to choose another healthcare insurance or pay for COBRA insurance to continue being covered.
In other cases, the responsibility for paying for the dependent spouse’s healthcare coverage could fall on a spouse who has been ordered to pay alimony. This arrangement could last until the dependent spouse remarries.
Healthcare Coverage & Child Support
As complicated as it can be to arrange post-divorce healthcare plans for spouses, the good news is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, children will not get dropped from a healthcare plan after a divorce. There is the option to switch the kids to the other parent’s insurance, or even to add them to the new plan while keeping their current insurance so that they can have double coverage.
In order to make sure all your bases are covered, it will be important to make sure that any child support terms address which parent is responsible for covering a child’s medical expenses, which will of course include healthcare plans. This financial responsibility won’t necessarily translate into full legal custody either, as child support and child custody are distinct issues.
Talk to a Massachusetts Family Lawyer About Your Divorce & Healthcare
One way or the other, the additional costs of healthcare insurance are probably going to land on at least one of the spouses in order for them to both keep coverage. It is critical that any divorce include clear terms on healthcare-related costs for the entire family, such as who will be paying deductibles, premiums, and the medical bills that insurance won’t cover.
The options that you and your family have for healthcare coverage after a divorce will depend on the financial details, insurance policies, and medical needs involved. In order to make sure that you understand what your options and rights are, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible.
At Miller Law Group, P.C., our Massachusetts family lawyers bring decades of legal experience to each case, as we always work collaboratively to make sure that each client benefits from our firm’s collective knowledge. This knowledge also include insight into how local family courts and judges operate, enabling us to proactively craft a strong case on your behalf.