Around 80% of all companies offer group health insurance (for now). Around 50% of all marriages end in divorce. 72.5% of all statistics are BS! My point is, since half all marriages will end, and most full tme employees have group health insurance, there's a good chance this article can help you.
By following the COBRA requirements and acting within the time periods allowed under the law to elect your coverage, you can remain covered under your ex-spouse’s group medical plan with the same benefits that you had before.
In general terms, most group medical plans are required to provide continuation coverage for private employers maintaining plans that have 20 or more employees during the preceding calendar year. Most States now have Mini-COBRA laws, with the exception of Alabama, Alaska and Delaware.
Continuation coverage must be provided if you were covered even one day on the group health insurance plan.
Domestic partners and COBRA
Be aware, however, that domestic partners are not qualified beneficiaries although many plans voluntarily provide continuation coverage to domestic partners. Check out the Summary Plan Description to see if your Domestic Partner's group medical plan offers coverage under COBRA divorce rules.
The law sets the minimum standard of coverage. Employers are free to offer greater benefits than required by the law.
Divorce and COBRA notification
Notification of divorce or legal separation for COBRA is essential to preserve your continuation rights under a former spouse’s health insurance plan.
Often in an impending divorce or legal separation, a spouse and/or dependents of the employee will find out after the fact they were dropped during open enrollment.
Notify the plan administrator within 60 days after the date of the divorce or legal separation. This is not the day you and your spouse first decide to get a divorce. In fact, the correct period to mail a notice is often many months after you file for a divorce, so timing is everything.
A plan administrator, when notified of the divorce or legal separation, has 14 days to send you the paperwork elect COBRA. They can do so in person or by first-class mail.
After receiving a COBRA Election Notice, the beneficiary spouse must have at least 60 days from the latest of:
The qualifying event;
The date coverage was lost; or
The date of the COBRA notice was mailed to elect extended coverage.
You may be entitled to COBRA rights if you are legally separated in most states except for Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas. These states do not recognize legal documents of separation submitted to their courts. They will only give you extended health coverage by divorce. Until then, you are still considered married and may not qualify for COBRA..
For the other states that do recognize legal separation, check your state's legal definition to see if you qualify as legally separated.
Do not be surprised if your plan administrator requests court documentation to support the separation, if your estranged spouse un-enrolls you. The health plan administrator may have a right to that info. They are looking for a copy of court approved legal separation papers or divorce decrees. If you don't supply the administrator with a paper trail of your separation, which means documents with your proper courts seal or stamp, they may not offer you COBRA.
Remember, just because a separation is in anticipation of divorce (which most are) does not means it's a legal separation.
Since COBRA is considered a hassle to administer by many employers and also increasing the overall cost to their company health plan, will cancel coverage of a beneficiary who failed to elect coverage within the election period.
Since most employers do not want to deal with COBRA administration, assume that the administrator is not your friend and will not be doing you any favors.
Since the election period usually starts from the date the notice was mailed, it is important to make sure your address is accurate. The adminstrator is only obliged to send the notice to the last known address you give them. And often in a divorce, former spouses have relocated.
Qualified beneficiaries should be sure that the COBRA plan administrator, not always the former employer's HR department, has a current address for the COBRA participant and beneficiaries and that the postal mailing information is kept up to date. Use certified mail to notice the administrator.
COBRA allows the employer to charge you the full group cost of providing continuation coverage to the participant, including a 2-percent charge for administration. So, if the full cost of coverage that the employer pays is $500, then your bill will be $510 per month.
Even if you comply with all the election requirements and completed your paperwork, a mistaken or angry ex-spouse may try and cancel your coverage. We have heard may horror stories of spouses removed their partners name during open enrollment so there is no plan to continue. Open communication with the COBRA health plan administrator is the key.
Successfully enrolling in the COBRA plan is important if you have a pre-existing condition. You may stay on the plan up to 36 months.