Unless you plan ahead, your Charleston divorce can wreak havoc on your finances. It can affect your financial security in ways that you expect—like the cost of the divorce itself and your reduced household income after the divorce is finalized—and in ways that you never anticipated.
One of the most frequently overlooked financial details of a Charleston divorce is health insurance.
Like many spouses, you may have obtained health insurance through your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s employer. Now that you are divorcing, can you retain your insurance?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is “No.” You cannot remain on your spouse’s employer health insurance, although your children can.
You have several health insurance options, including getting health insurance through your employer, applying for COBRA, or purchasing private individual insurance.
Depending on your unique situation, you may be able to get health insurance through your employer. You should speak with your employer to find out the enrollment period of the carrier that provides your company’s health insurance.
If your employer doesn’t offer insurance, you may want to consider COBRA.
COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) “provides certain former employees, retirees, former spouses, and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
COBRA will allow you to continue your current coverage; however, there are several disadvantages to claiming benefits under COBRA. COBRA is temporary: you will only be covered for 36 months. In addition, COBRA will likely be more expensive. Because your ex-spouse’s employer will not be covering part of your premium, you will be responsible for the full cost.
If you decide to apply for COBRA benefits, you must notify the health insurance plan administrator within 60 days of your Charleston divorce. This step is extremely important: failing to notify the plan administrator may constitute insurance fraud. After electing coverage, you will have 45 days to pay the initial premium.
If you choose to purchase private individual insurance, you can find a variety of plans by researching online. U.S. News & World Report has issued an overview of the best-rated health insurance plans in South Carolina. In addition, you may be able to find a plan for you and your family using the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace. Though open enrollment for coverage in 2014 ended in March, divorce is a qualifying life event that will allow you to enroll for coverage at any time.
Each year, according to a recent article in Market Watch, about 115,000 women lose their health insurance after divorce. It is crucial that you search for health insurance coverage while you are still insured under your spouse’s plan. Once uninsured, it becomes more difficult and more expensive to obtain coverage.
During your divorce, you should consult with an experienced Charleston SC divorce attorney about this issue. Your divorce lawyer will be able to guide you through your health insurance options.