Health Insurance After Divorce
When you get divorced in South Carolina, there are always financial consequences. There are court fees associated with getting a divorce and you are advised to enlist the help of an experienced family law attorney if you have child custody, asset, or support disputes. One unanticipated cost of divorce that could affect both your wallet and your health is the impact that this change could have on your health insurance.
If you are receiving health insurance through your spouse’s employer, your divorce is going to affect the availability of that coverage. While your children can continue to receive the same health insurance benefits after a divorce, as an ex-spouse you cannot. Once a divorce decree is signed, you will no longer be eligible to get health insurance from an ex-spouse’s employer. These policies are meant for employees and their immediate families, and a divorce declares that you are no longer a family member.
Options for Continuing Health Insurance After Divorce
There are a few options that you can pursue for health insurance coverage after a divorce. If you are employed, and your company offers health insurance, this should almost always be your first choice.
The second option is your ex-spouse’s COBRA coverage. The “Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act” (COBRA) provides former employees, retirees, former spouses, and dependent children with the option to continue health insurance at a group rate on a temporary basis. According to the law, you can receive up to 36 months of COBRA coverage.
Because your ex-spouse’s employer will no longer supplement this coverage, the COBRA option is likely to be expensive. If you do decide to do this, you must apply for coverage with the health insurance plan administrator within 60 days of your South Carolina divorce. Once you choose your coverage, you will have 45 days to make an initial premium payment.
Your third option for continuing health insurance after a South Carolina divorce is to shop for coverage on the open marketplace. Based on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), you should be able to find full health insurance coverage that covers any pre-existing conditions. In many cases, a health insurance policy on the open market could be less expensive than a COBRA policy.
Order of Separation and Maintenance
A legal separation is not the same thing as a divorce, so couples may be able to continue a spouse’s health insurance while in the midst of a legal separation. When couples are living apart in South Carolina, either party can file for an order of separate maintenance and support. This is not the same as a divorce but has a specific benefit regarding health insurance coverage.
Couples that file for an order of separation and maintenance declare that they are living separately. The court issues an order, either temporarily or permanently, which distributes assets, decides child custody and visitation, and sets child and spousal support. The final ruling is similar to a divorce except that neither party is permitted to remarry.
The main benefit of this type of arrangement is that one spouse can still receive health insurance benefits from another spouse’s employer because the couple remains legally married. This is a viable option if a spouse has a serious health condition or would otherwise not be able to afford health insurance after a divorce.
Our South Carolina Family Law Attorneys Can Help
Health insurance is something that you should think about and plan for well before the date that your final divorce decree will be signed. Market Watch reported several years ago that as many as 115,000 women lose their health insurance annually due to divorce. Finding additional coverage and solutions to this problem early in the process can help ensure that you have the protection you need in the future.
As you work through these issues, you should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable South Carolina divorce attorney that can help guide you through your health insurance, asset, and custody options. Contact The Cate Law Firm at (864) 585-4226 or online now to discuss your case.