Dividing Health Insurance
Couples in the process of a divorce will be dividing property and debts and need to be aware of the problems associated with health insurance. Some spouses try to drop their spouse from their health insurance plan prior to the final divorce. Before this is done, those who want to drop a spouse from their policy, as well as those who are in fear of being dropped, need the advice of a Las Vegas divorce lawyer. There may be serious consequences for those who discontinue health insurance for their spouses prior to the date of the final judgment of divorce.
Many health plans do not even allow one spouse to drop the other without a court order. Some require proof that the spouse is covered by another health care insurer. Depending on the plan, even if it is allowed, the spouse cannot be dropped until the next enrollment date. Only a few plans allow a change to the policy at any time.
Even if dropping a spouse from the health care plan is allowed prior to the final judgment of divorce, a divorce lawyer may advise a spouse not to do this. If the dropped spouse incurs medical bills, in certain circumstances, the spouse with the insurance may still be required to pay the health care costs.
Another problem to consider is if the spouse incurs medical bills because he or she was dropped from the policy, the judge will not look favorably on that situation. That may influence support and property division orders. Also, when a spouse requires medical care and believes there is still medical coverage, the canceling spouse may still be deemed to be financially responsible.
The situation changes on the date the final judgment of divorce is entered. As of that date, the ex-spouse is no longer entitled to be covered on the former spouse’s insurance policy. Spouses who are losing the insurance coverage need to know that they are totally responsible for any medical care expenses incurred after the date of the final order granting the divorce.
As an alternative, Federal law, known as COBRA, requires employers who have at least 20 employees to offer the divorced spouse health care coverage under the existing plan. The final date of the divorce triggers the group health plan administrator’s responsibility to offer continuing coverage to the spouse that will no longer be covered. Some employers with fewer than 20 employees have plans that will offer continuing coverage even though they are not required to by law.
The spouse opting for COBRA will usually pay the premium and it expires after 36 months. Although not an ideal plan, it may be beneficial to those ex-spouses who have pre-existing health conditions and cannot qualify for coverage under other plans.
Before any decisions are made regarding health insurance coverage, an experienced Las Vegas divorce lawyer should be consulted.