Is a divorced spouse entitled to COBRA coverage from their former spouses’ group health plan? How is COBRA alternative coverage handled in a divorce situation?

Under COBRA, covered spouses and dependent children may continue their plan coverage for a up to 36 months when they would otherwise lose coverage due to divorce or legal separation. A qualified beneficiary must notify the plan administrator within 60 days after divorce or legal separation. After being notified of a divorce, the plan administrator must give notice, generally within 14 days, to the qualified beneficiary of the right to elect COBRA continuation coverage.

COBRA alternative insurance policies with pre-paid premiums are not cancellable and therefore are not affected by divorce. For example, family members covered by a commercial pre-paid twelve month short term policy remain covered for the policy duration regardless of any marital issues.

Other types of temporary health insurance policies that are paid on a month to month can be cancelled by the policyholder. If a policy is cancelled, coverage ends for all family members. It is not possible to remove individual family members.

Long term renewable COBRA insurance alternatives offer covered persons the option of converting a joint policy to a single policy.

Both temporary and long term COBRA alternate polices are popular options for individuals who are required by a domestic relations order to provide health insurance for a former spouse and/or dependents but for financial or other reasons are unable to continue this coverage through a group insurance plan. Domestic relations seldom specify the type of health insurance that can be used to satisfy the requirement and payers are often motivated to find a lower cost alternative to COBRA coverage.

revised 3/1/09

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COBRA continuation coverage may provide temporary protection when changing jobs, going through a divorce or negotiating other life transitions. Choosing the right health insurance is crucial to protect your health and financial security.