It’s the Fall. The leaves are turning, the NFL is in full gear, and it’s almost the open enrollment period for employee benefits. If you are like most Americans, the words “open enrollment” cause anxiety and dread, even more so if you are in the midst of a divorce. If you are the unemployed spouse, or work part-time without benefits, you may be fearful that your spouse will not re-enroll you during the divorce or that you will not be able to afford healthcare after the divorce is final. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about maintianing/obtaining health insurance before and after your divorce.
Q: Can I stay on my spouse’s insurance during the divorce?
A: Yes, you can and should remain on your spouse’s insurance during the divorce. New Jersey family law provides that one spouse cannot remove another from his or her health insurance during the pendency of a divorce. Once the divorce is final, however, your spouse can no longer maintain you on that insurance policy.
Q: What if my spouse wants to change the policy while we are in the middle of the divorce?
A: In this ever-changing world of healthcare coverage, you and your spouse may want to explore better options during the open enrollment period (usually November – January 1). If you both agree that the change is appropriate for your circumstances, then go ahead and change it. If you, however, disagree with the change, then your spouse cannot change the insurance without the court’s approval.
Q: Can I enroll in a new policy at any time after the divorce?
A: Along with a new birth or marriage, divorce is a qualifying event that entitles you to purchase or enroll in a new policy, but you must do so within a specified period of time after the date of divorce. An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through the enrollment process.
Q: What are my options if I lose my coverage due to divorce?
A: There are three options to consider if you lose insurance coverage due to your divorce.
If your spouse works for an employer with 20 or more employees and you are covered under that employer’s health insurance, then you can qualify for continuation coverage under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). COBRA entitles you to the same coverage that you had under your spouse’s plan. The only drawback is that you, not the company, are responsible for paying the entire cost of the premium. Therefore, COBRA can be an expensive option for some. If you meet the criteria listed here, you should inquire with the employer’s insurance carrier about the cost of continuation coverage under COBRA. You can also find additional information about COBRA Continuation Health Coverage at this link.
2. AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Another option that all potentially-uninsured spouses should explore is insurance available through the Affordable Care Act. You can explore the various plans available and find out the costs of each by going to the government website. This is a website established by the federal government where you can run different scenarios and determine whether or not you are a candidate for federal subsidies.
3. DIVORCE FROM BED AND BOARD
One other option, which is not available to everyone and should only be considered under certain circumstances, is to get a Divorce from Bed and Board. A “divorce from bed and board” is New Jersey’s form of “legal separation.” Because you are not fully divorced, the insurance company may not discontinue your coverage. However, insurance companies have caught on to this and many policies now disallow insurance coverage under these circumstances. More importantly, a divorce from bed and board has some drawbacks that must be fully considered and analyzed in the context of your particular situation. For more information about Divorce from Bed and Board, check out our blog article at this link.
Before you make any decisions regarding your divorce and your health insurance, it is important to consult a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney at Ruvolo Law Group, LLC. We will inform you of your options and the impact of any choices you make.
Blog authored by Cindy Ball Wilson, Esq.