Legal separation — what happens to my health insurance?

My wife and I just got a legal separation.  I am self-employed and am covered on her employer’s health plan.  Do I have to go on COBRA, now that we are separated?  Or am I still covered as a spouse until we get divorced?  (I’m still hoping that we get back together.)

Half-Way Out But Hanging On

Dear Half Way Out But Hanging On,

Health insurance companies treat legally separated spouses differently – some will let you stay on as a spouse, and others will start your COBRA plan.  Call the health insurer yourself.  The number will be on the back of the card.  You can confirm your understanding with your wife’s employer but do not get the answer from your wife’s employer’s HR person.  He or she may not know the ins and outs of the policy and you won’t have recourse if you get the wrong information.

You may want to (or have to) revisit your separation papers.  Your wife probably paid for your health insurance coverage with money taken from her paycheck.  She may be unwilling to pay for your coverage, now that you two are separated.  If she is willing to keep paying and the health insurer still will cover you as a spouse, you are all set.  If she is unwilling or the health insurer puts you on COBRA, then you have new issues to deal with – namely, how to pay for your health insurance.

Good luck and best wishes for reuniting!

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.