When you got married, you and your spouse intended on staying together forever; but, like so many married couples, as you’ve settled into marriage, you may have discovered that your ideas of happily ever after weren’t coming true. If you and your spouse are thinking about getting a divorce, there are a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration. One of those things is health insurance.
A large percentage of married couples in America share health insurance plans, meaning that both the spouses are covered under one spouse’s employer-sponsored policy. If you are on your husband’s or wife’s health insurance plan, you may be worried that he or she will drop your coverage. If you are the one who provides the coverage, you may be thinking about dropping your spouse from the plan. Whatever the case may be, if you are wondering if it’s possible for a spouse to be dropped from a health insurance policy while you’re still married, the short answer is a “no”.
But why can’t you drop your spouse from your plan even if you are separated and planning on getting a divorce? There are several reasons why. Here’s a look at some of them.
Legally, You’re Still Married
Once you have added your husband or wife to your health insurance plan, he or she cannot be removed while you are still married. This is true if you are separated and aren’t living together, and if you plan on getting a divorce down the road. Why? – Because for all intents and purposes, you are still married. In other words, while in your eyes, you may not be married, in the eyes of the law, you are; and a marriage is a legally binding relationship. Since you aren’t technically divorced, there haven’t been any legal changes in the status of your relationship. Until a Divorce Decree has been filed, your health insurance provider will not permit any changes in coverage; therefore, your spouse will continue to receive your employer-sponsored health insurance benefits, or you will continue to receive the employer-sponsored health insurance benefits your spouse provides, until your marriage is legally terminated.
In addition to not being legally divorced, there’s another reason why married spouses cannot be dropped from a shared health insurance plan: it doesn’t benefit the provider. If your soon-to-be ex-husband or ex-wife has medical bills and fails to pay those bills, the insurance provider has someone else that they can reach out to. Health insurance is a business, after all, and providers want to ensure that they are collecting the money that they are owed.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
The fact that you are still legally married isn’t the only reason why a spouse can’t be dropped from a shared health insurance plan; another reason is because federal mandates prevent married couples from dropping one spouse from an insurance policy.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) was passed by Congress in 1996. This law was put into place to prevent individuals who are covered by a spouse’s health insurance to be left without coverage because of a change in employment, a death, or a change in relationship. In other words, if you have started the process of filing for divorced but you are technically still married – and even once you do file a Divorce Decree – COBRA prevents you or your spouse from being dropped from a group insurance plan. You or your spouse will be eligible to receive the same benefits for a period of up to 3 years, even after the divorce has been finalized.
Once the Divorce is Final
Once your divorce is finalized, you can remove your spouse from your health insurance plan, or your spouse can remove you from his or her health insurance policy. In fact, the spouse carries the coverage will be legally obligated to drop his or her spouse from the plan. It is against the law to carry any individual on an insurance plan, other than a spouse or children who are dependent on you. If you carry the insurance, let your provider know about the divorce and so that they can terminate the coverage. If you are covered by your spouse’s policy, the insurance provider will provide you with the necessary documentation. The insurance provider may also offer you alternative coverage options.