If you are married but are not employed or do not have workplace health benefits, then you may have wondered what would happen to your health insurance coverage in a divorce or if your employed and insured spouse becomes eligible for Medicare or worse, dies. Fortunately, you have a right by law to continue the same coverage that you had before one of these events.  The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires that group health plans offer temporary continuation coverage for retirees, former employees and their dependents.

Typically, the COBRA continuation coverage is available for a maximum of 18 months for dependents and employees who lose their job or get reduced hours.  However, the coverage period increases to 36 months for dependents when they lose their coverage as a result of divorce or death or when the covered spouse becomes eligible for Medicare. A specific timeline of actions must be carried out by the dependent spouse and/or the health plan administrator to complete the process.  For example, the dependent spouse has 60 days to notify the health plan administrator after a divorce or legal separation and 30 days after the death of a covered employee. Detailed information on COBRA continuation coverage is provided in your current health plan’s Summary Plan Description or you may request information from the plan administrator.