In Sickness and in Health: Can Insurance Coverage Outlast Your Vows?

You took a vow to remain united in sickness and in health, but lately that vow may be tested in a new way. For thousands of couples considering divorce, those promises may have greater meaning, depending on how Congress weighs in on our nation’s healthcare insurance. A recent article in Time magazine reported that some couples are actually delaying divorce proceedings until the outcome of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is known.

Of course, this health insurance is not a new concern to divorcees. In 2012, before the ACA took full effect, University of Michigan researchers reported that approximately 115,000 women lost their private health insurance every year due to divorce. Under COBRA, divorced spouses are entitled to remain on their ex’s plan for up to three years of continued coverage. But after those benefits run out, they are once again reliant on the individual plan market. Before the ACA, that often meant being charged a higher rate for coverage or even being denied outright if there were existing health issues.

Back in 2009, when Time downsized its holdings in Birmingham, Ala. and laid off hundreds of
employees, Joan Morris* (whose husband was self-employed) found herself among those
scrambling for coverage for her family. After speaking with an insurance broker, she discovered
that her son, who was being treated for an endocrine deficiency would be denied continuation of
treatment. Fortunately, COBRA was option.

When she and her husband divorced 18 months later, he was able to continue COBRA after her
benefits ran out. “We juggled our son’s coverage between us,” she says. “My husband was able
to keep him covered under COBRA while we waited for ACA to be enacted.”

A few years later, Morris considered another option: Tying the knot again. She admits that she
and her gainfully-employed boyfriend discussed getting hitched just to provide the necessary
insurance for her son. “It’s not the most romantic reason in the world to marry,”she laughs. “But
there are worse motivations.”

Ultimately, Morris who is self-employed, discovered her son qualified for Alabama ALLKids
When ACA became available she quickly jumped on-board to a modestly priced plan. Now, she’s
looking at options again.

What can you do to make sure your covered post-divorce? If you are divorcing and covered
under your spouse’s plan, take the potential increased expense into consideration as you come to
a settlement of assets. Check your insurer’s allowances when it comes to keeping separated
spouses on a policy. If you have children and meet the income requirements, your children may
qualify for ALL Kids. Likewise many pharmaceutical companies provide co-pay incentives for
certain prescription drugs. You attorney can help navigate your options.

* Not her real name.