Georgia Health Insurance Laws Concerning Divorce
By Heather Frances J.D.
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Many spouses have health insurance coverage through their spouse’s group plan, but that eligibility changes when they divorce. If one spouse is receiving health insurance benefits through the other spouse’s plan, the receiving spouse must elect coverage under COBRA if she wants to remain on that plan once the divorce is finalized.
COBRA coverage, which comes from the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, allows a spouse who had coverage at the time of her divorce to maintain that coverage once the divorce is final; however, she is required to pay the full amount of her plan premiums. This may be an expensive option and COBRA eligibility only lasts for 36 months, so it isn’t a permanent solution. Spouses who choose COBRA coverage must elect this coverage within 60 days after the divorce is finalized.
Coverage While Divorce Is Pending
There is no Georgia statute that specifically prohibits a spouse from dropping the other spouse from his health insurance policy while a divorce is pending; therefore, he may legally terminate the other spouse’s coverage before the divorce is final. However, Georgia courts can enter an order preventing such termination. If a spouse is vulnerable to losing her health insurance, she may petition the court for an order addressing this issue.
A marital settlement agreement or divorce decree can provide that one spouse maintain an individual insurance plan for the other spouse upon divorce or contribute a certain amount of money toward the ex-spouse’s individual plan or COBRA payments. However, a divorce decree or settlement agreement cannot make a spouse eligible for coverage under a certain plan. The agreement may spell out the terms of payment by indicating the exact amount the ex-spouse must pay and for how long. Georgia courts can also consider the cost of medical insurance when determining alimony awards.
In most cases, children maintain their eligibility for coverage after their parents' divorce, even if they receive coverage from the noncustodial parent. The divorce decree, marital settlement agreement or child support order typically states which parent is responsible for providing the children’s health insurance coverage and paying for any medical expenses not covered by the health plan.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.