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Divorcing After 55: Healthcare Coverage Before Medicare Eligibility


Getting divorced at any age is destabilizing and has consequences far beyond simply ending your legal marriage.  Often, one spouse relies on the other for health insurancecoverage.  The end of a marriage, therefore, also may result inthe end of that coverage.  

When the spouse losing coverage is over 55, however, losing health insurance coverage may not be an option. With Medicare eligibility up to 10 years away, it is important for anyone going through a divorce to proceed carefully and take whatever steps possible to maintain coverage. 

In Oregon, lawmakers have sought to bridge that gap. If you are 55 years or older and divorced, you may be able to continue your existing coverage until you are eligible to enroll in Medicare or another group coverage. To take advantage of that, the law requires you to notify the insurance plan administrator within 60 days of the entry of the dissolution judgment. You must then elect continuing coverage with whatever form the plan administrator provides. More information can be found here.

In Washington, however, no comparable law exists. Without such protection provided by law, you—with the help of your attorney—will want to consider more creative solutions for guaranteeing continuing coverage.

Jordan Jeter is an attorney at McKeanSmith.

For example, if you are negotiating a settlement with your spouse, consider asking for them to keep you on their health insurance plan until you are eligible for Medicare. If your spouse is unwilling or unable to continue coverage for you, consider asking—either in negotiations or at trial—for a higher monthly support amount or greater share of the marital assets to offset your increased healthcare expense amount.

Although a more unorthodox approach, some couples even choose to remain legally married so that one spouse can continue accessing the other’s health insurance coverage. These couples reach an agreement as to all the terms of their divorce but choose to put off finalizing the divorce until Medicare eligibility. 

If all creative problem-solving has failed, and you find yourself needing to obtain coverage after your divorce, you may be eligible for continuing coverage under the Federal COBRAlaw. COBRA allows a person who is divorced to continue theirexisting coverage for 36 months. Depending on how close you are to the age of Medicare eligibility, that 36 months might fill the gap. COBRA coverage, however, is expensive, and it is generally recommended that you try to get health insurance from other sources instead.

For more information on healthcare resources, please visit WAHealthPlanFinder.org or OregonHealthCare.gov

Contact the law firm of McKean Smith today for a consultation. Visit McKeanSmithLaw.com.

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