One of the most critical things people often forget about during a divorce is the loss of health care insurance for you and your children.
Most divorce decrees involving children will address the issue of insurance for the children. It is almost always a good idea to have an agreement on who will be providing coverage for the children, or each child. Sometimes an employer will pay for coverage for family members, so that would be the preferred choice. But if the employer coverage does not pay, the decision of who will pay is based on other criteria and there can be a variety of solutions. For instance, if there are 2 children, one parent might pay for coverage for one and the other parent pay for the other child.
Whatever plan is decided on, or ordered by the court, it is best to have it all sorted out in the divorce decree rather than having to fight it out afterwards. Even if you do not have children in need of coverage, it is important to plan in advance for your insurance coverage needs, if what you currently have will be disrupted by the divorce. If you have a long term illness or if finances will be a problem, discuss that with your attorney early in the divorce process.
It is important you find a plan that will meet your budget and medical needs. Usually the first place to look is your employer. They will be able to deduct the costs from your payroll so that you receive a tax benefit, and it is usually the easiest way to get covered. Many spouses that work at home find they must get employment to qualify for their own group policy. If this won’t work for you, here are a few other options:
FEDERAL COBRA INSURANCE IN WASHINGTON
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985 is a federal law that was created to allow individuals to continue their health insurance coverage for a designated period after a qualifying event, divorce being the qualifying event in this case. Even in amicable divorce cases, insurance companies won’t insure the ex-spouse of an insured. COBRA may be available if the company has 20 or more employees. COBRA can last up to three years and is easy to get, but keep in mind it doesn’t kick in automatically. It is extremely important to understand you must apply within 60 days of receiving the paperwork stating your eligibility. COBRA is not available after this 60 day window. One drawback to COBRA is that it is expensive – about 102% of the total group rate that was previously being paid. Some families can spend well over $1000 monthly if they choose to continue their health insurance with COBRA. You must also pay any deductibles and prescription costs.
GOVERNMENT INSURANCE PACKAGES
Another option for individuals and families living at or near the federal poverty line are governmental medical insurance packages. These plans are offered through both Washington state and the federal government and are normally free or very affordable. They are based on income levels. Many times people find that there are plans that their children will qualify for that can reduce the cost of insurance for the entire family. You can learn more about these plans by contacting https://www.dshs.wa.gov/. One example is APPLE Health for Kids and Adults (Medicaid), a non-grandfathered federal program that is also subject to the Affordable Care Act.
PRIVATE MEDICAL INSURANCE
In Washington state, you will have an option to buy an individual health plan during the annual open enrollment period (which is now closed for 2018). You can either buy a plan directly from an insurer or through Washington state’s health Exchange, the Washington Healthplanfinder (www.healthcareplanner.org). If you buy a plan through the Exchange, you may qualify for help paying your premium. Usually, different plans also have different regulators, so it is important to note that in Washington State law, plans are governed by the Revised Code of Washington and the Washington Administrative Code. If the plan is regulated by Washington state, it is also subject to the Affordable Care Act or ACA, unless it is a part of the Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP).
These plans have different types of ‘metal’ categories: Bronze, Silver, Gold & Platinum, with bronze offering the least amount of coverage, and platinum offering the most. It’s also important you remember to budget for deductibles, doctor’s co-pays, and to ensure your doctor is in the health care network. Things like vision and dental coverage also will vary depending on your plan, but are usually fairly inexpensive to add on yourself.
Divorce is stressful and there are a lot of details to deal with in addition to the emotions. Don’t be so distracted by it that you begin to neglect your health or plan for your future. Always remember to take care of yourself, and your children – and know that there are many resources available to you!