In most cases you can remain covered on the existing plan for 36 months after divorce.
Congress enacted the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) which requires most employers with group health plans to offer the divorced spouse of an employee the opportunity to continue temporary coverage for 36 months after divorce.
Virtually all group health plans maintained by employers who have twenty (20) or more employees are subject to COBRA rights including group health plans of corporations, partnerships, tax exempt organizations, state and local government.
The Federal government, certain church plans and group health care plans where the employer has fewer than 20 employees are not required to offer a continuation of coverage. However, even though many such plans are not required to offer a continuation of coverage you should check with the individual plan because some of the plans do offer some type of continuation of coverage.
A divorce triggers your right to elect to continue COBRA coverage.
Upon divorce you must notify the group health care plan of the divorce. Also notify the Human Relations Department of your spouse’s employer. The employer is also supposed to notify the plan administrator within 30 days of the date of divorce. The group health care plan administrator is then suppose to notify the divorced spouse within 14 days of right to elect to continue what is called COBRA coverage. You must elect to continue coverage within 60 days of the date of divorce. You must also pay for the insurance yourself. If you exercise COBRA rights then you insurance will remain in effect from the day of divorce.
COBRA rights are extremely important. If you have a pre-existing condition they allow you to continue treatment. They also give you a 36 month period to locate other coverage. Many private plans exclude pre-existing conditions unless you have had continuous coverage. Also, private plans are hard to find and you need time to look around and select the right insurance plan.
A word of caution: put everything in writing. While the phone is convenient people do forget to follow up or fail to keep records. I suggest that you put all of your notices in writing, send them by snail mail, and email them.
John K. Grubb practices family law in Houston. He has a BBA, MBA, and a JD Degree. John K. Grubb focuses a significant part of his family law practice on helping couples create premarital and prenuptial agreements in Texas.