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Many people consider a legal separation to be a precursor to divorce. However, it is not always this way. Some people separate so they can decide whether they want to remain married or not. Other people may separate and remain separated for a long time due to the benefits of being separated. In general, a legal separation gives couples legal and physical space from each other while still allowing them to keep the medical and other financial benefits that they often enjoy. In many cases, health insurance coverage is one of the benefits that a separated spouse may enjoy.
Whether you can continue your health coverage even after a legal separation depends on several factors. If the plan is your own or obtained through your employer, you will be able to keep it as the separation does not affect this in any way. However, if your plan was obtained through your spouse or their job, this will become more complicated. Health insurance companies and employers are not required to include legally separated spouses on their plans. However, many elect to do so. In many cases, this is more cost efficient than losing a customer.
To find out whether you can continue coverage, you will need to refer directly to your own insurance plan’s paperwork. This should list the many stipulations for continued coverage. If there are still questions, you can call the insurance company directly and ask to talk to customer service. In addition, your separated spouse will need to talk to their human resources department to find out whether they can continue coverage at the current rate. Alternately, you also can contact human resources to get an accurate picture of your new coverage.
A secondary issue is who will pay for the insurance plan, if you are allowed to continue your health coverage. At most workplaces, a spouse is only covered with a premium that is entirely or partially paid by the employee. You may have to begin paying this premium yourself. The exception is if there is a court order for the spouse to continue medical coverage. This is common in cases where the employed spouse makes a great deal more than the spouse they are covering, and also in cases where the covered spouse is disabled, a homemaker, or otherwise not currently able to cover either a health insurance premium or their own bills. if this is the case for you, you can continue on the same plan with no additional cost. If not, you will need to make arrangements to pay on a monthly basis.
If you cannot continue your coverage due to either policy details or a lack of funds, it is still important to keep health insurance. Even a small gap in coverage can lead to a hefty tax fine. You can do this through a program called COBRA. COBRA allows you to pay out of pocket for your plan for up to 180 months after you lose coverage. While this is an expensive option, it is usually cheaper than Affordable Care Act penalties. In addition, it allows you to have a last visit with your physicians in case they do not accept your new insurance. Applying for state medical coverage is also a viable option for people who make little or no income and may lose health insurance due to a legal separation.
The exact rules for continuing medical coverage vary from state to state, plan to plan, and even situation to situation. It is crucial to meet with a family law attorney when planning a separation or divorce so you can ensure that your settlement will include necessary health insurance. Health care is a necessity whether you are single, married, separated, or divorced.