Here’s What to Know About Health Insurance and Divorce in Rhode Island

Health insurance is a big topic in this country right now for a myriad of reasons, from the rising costs of coverage, to the Affordable Care Act and its impact on how we receive medical care, and how much that care costs.

With all of this debate and focus on insurance, it’s not surprising that it’s also a topic that frequently comes up during divorce. Healthcare coverage can be incredibly expensive, and if you’re in the midst of divorce and have been covered by your spouse’s insurance in the past, you may be unwilling or unable to begin taking on that cost.

Another component of this issue occurs when you’re actually the spouse who has been responsible for the provision of health insurance coverage for your husband or wife—you may be asking whether or not you’ll be required to continue this coverage even after you divorce.

The Rhode Island Health Insurance Continuation Act

One important law to be aware of in Rhode Island pertaining to this issue is the Rhode Island Health Insurance Continuation Act.

This legislation allows for some former spouses to remain on their ex-husband or wives insurance coverage after a Final Judgment of Divorce is issued.

Despite this law, it’s not as clear cut as it may seem, because other cases in Rhode Island history have not allowed for spouses to stay on their former spouse’s insurance, particularly if it’s employer-provided health care, and if they are allowed to remain on a policy, the employer may require additional premiums to be paid.

Protecting Yourself

If you’re the spouse who’s worried about losing your health insurance as the result of a divorce, the best thing you can do is be proactive. Perhaps health insurance coverage is so important to you that you’re willing to forego something else in the divorce negotiations in order to ensure you can keep it.

There is certain wording and language that can be included in a divorce agreement that may allow you to keep coverage, particularly if it’s something both you and your former spouse can agree upon.

Despite the possibility your spouse could continue paying for your health insurance, it’s important to realize if your spouse is fired from his or her job, this coverage may be discontinued, or your spouse’s lawyer may include other stipulations, such as the ending of coverage if you’re remarried or reach a certain age.

The following are some options you may have, if you’re the spouse who may lose coverage:

  • Seeking individual coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Luckily, the issue of divorce and insurance is no longer as difficult for many people because of the Affordable Care Act, which dictates that you can buy insurance through a marketplace, and insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. This is important because it leaves divorcing individuals with more options, and they don’t feel as trapped when it comes to obtaining insurance.
  • You may not have to wait for an open enrollment period to obtain insurance after a divorce because it’s considered a life-changing event. This is particularly important if you’re already working at a job where you’re offered health insurance, but you haven’t taken advantage of this in the past.
  • Health care coverage can be used as a negotiation point—for example, you may be able to ask for a higher share of marital assets in order to offset the costs you may incur as a result of obtaining insurance coverage.

Each individual situation varies, but the most important thing to remember about health insurance and divorce is the fact you’re not automatically required to continue covering your former spouse, and if you’re the covered individual, your ex-husband or wife may not be responsible for your coverage. Health insurance is an important thing to discuss both with your divorce lawyer and your former spouse to ensure there isn’t a lapse in coverage, and you’re able to adequately prepare for the future. 

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