The Effect of Divorce on Health Insurance

By Bob Matteucci

One of the many things that divorce can change is health insurance. Whether you had health insurance through your former spouse or you were the primary insured, you need to understand the effect of divorce on health insurance. 

You and your spouse will have to make decisions and file the appropriate forms with insurance providers within the deadlines to make sure that both spouses and the children have healthcare coverage. The cost of policy premiums should get addressed during the divorce case. A New Mexico family law attorney can evaluate your situation and provide guidance on how to handle the health insurance issues in your divorce.

COBRA and Health Insurance Following Divorce

You will not be able to stay on your former spouse’s insurance indefinitely after the divorce, and your former spouse cannot remain on your policy forever. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives people a brief grace period to find other coverage after a divorce. Depending on your situation, you might be able to get COBRA coverage for up to three years.

Many people are shocked at the expense of exercising their option for COBRA coverage. Employers usually pay a portion of the cost of premiums for employees and their spouses and dependents. For the non-employee spouse, the spousal and family subsidy ends with divorce. A non-employee former spouse might have to pay three or four times as much for COBRA coverage than the premiums cost before the divorce.

COBRA does not increase the cost of the employee’s insurance. Also, unless the divorce decree says otherwise, the non-employee spouse is responsible for the payment of his or her COBRA premiums. The employee spouse cannot refuse the former spouse the right to get COBRA coverage.

Your Insurance Cost Could Increase or Decrease Post-Divorce

If you carried your spouse on your employer’s policy, your premiums could go down. When you go from “family coverage” to “employee only” or “employee plus one,” if your child stays on your policy, you might end up paying less than before the divorce.

Often the total cost of health insurance is lower when each former spouse gets separate coverage through their employers than it was for the entire family to be on only one policy.  Employers tend to pick up more of the health insurance expenses for employees than for their spouses or families. 

Children and Health Insurance After Divorce

Children should not lose their health insurance when their parents divorce. In the divorce documents, the party that will be providing healthcare insurance for the children must be designated and listed. The cost of health insurance is considered in the New Mexico Child Support Worksheet calculator. 

Long-Term Health Insurance Options

The best option for most people after divorce is the group health insurance plan offered by one’s employer. Premiums tend to be lower, and coverage is usually superior in employer-provided health insurance than in private individual coverage. 

If your job does not offer health insurance, you might have to buy private individual coverage. People who select this route usually buy policies on an insurer’s website or through an insurance broker. Additional options can include:

  • Tricare for military service members and their spouses
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • The Affordable Care Act

A New Mexico family law attorney can explain the health insurance options for your situation and address these issues in your divorce case. Get in touch with Bob Matteucci today.

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.