Keeping Your Health Insurance

Posted: 24 January, 2020

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. Generally, during the marriage, one spouse has included the other in their health insurance plan. The spouse with the insurance may assume that the other one can be dropped from the policy before the divorce is final. 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.

During the separation prior to the final divorce decree

Unless there is a court order, one spouse may not drop the other from the health insurance plan during the separation. If it does happen and the spouse is dropped and later incurs medical expense, the one who has the insurance will very likely be required to pay those medical bills. In addition, the court will not be pleased when it discovers this has happened. This may influence later decisions concerning division of assets and spousal support.

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.

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.

From the date of the final divorce decree

The situation changes on the date the divorce becomes final. The spouse without coverage is no longer legally even allowed to be covered by the health plan of the ex-spouse. Depending on the healthcare plan carrier, or benefit plan administrator, insurance will be terminated either on the very date of the divorce or on the next open enrollment date.

It needs to be made clear to the spouse who is losing health care insurance that from the date of the final judgment, there is no coverage. The person will be totally responsible for all medical expenses incurred after the date the final judgment of divorce is entered.

If the employer for whom the spouse with the insurance works has no fewer than 20 employees, the insurer is required by federal law to offer a plan known as COBRA to the spouse who is losing coverage. This provides the same coverage to the ex-spouse, but it is generally quite a bit more expensive and the spouse who obtains COBRA must pay for it. It can be used for a total of 36 months. At the end of that period of time, COBRA coverage expires and the ex-spouse must find other insurance coverage. 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.

Options when health care coverage is a major concern

When the health of one party is such that ongoing and expensive medical care is anticipated, there are some options available.

  1. Even though a divorced spouse cannot keep the ex-spouse on the policy, a court may order one party to pay health insurance premiums for the ex-spouse. A court has no jurisdiction over a health care insurer and cannot order an insurer to keep an ex-spouse on the plan. The court can order one party, as part of a spousal support or alimony award, to pay the insurance premiums and medical bills of an ex-spouse.
  2. The parties may choose a legal separation instead of a divorce. This ends the marriage relationship, divides assets and liabilities and provides for the court to make orders for child and spousal support. The parties are still legally married, so the spouse with the health insurance can maintain coverage under the health plan for the spouse from whom the party is legally separated.

Whether you are the spouse that has the health insurance coverage, or the spouse that will lose coverage when the divorce is final, you need the services of an experienced Las Vegas divorce attorney who can guide you through this legal maze.

Contact RIGHT Lawyers at (702) 914-0400 to speak with a Las Vegas Family Law Attorney.