Affordable Care Act (ACA) Open Enrollment Ends December 15: What Divorcing and Divorced Spouses Need to Know

The 2017 open enrollment period for individual health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began November 1 and ends December 15. While there are some important changes to enrollment for 2017, the ACA (also known as "Obamacare") remains in effect, and it still requires you to have health insurance (or payment of a fine) if you earn enough to owe income tax to the IRS.

For many divorcing and recently-divorced spouses, obtaining health insurance under the ACA is a necessity. Individuals who formerly relied on their spouses' coverage can lose their coverage after a divorce (unless they are covered by COBRA for an employer-sponsored insurance plan), and this can present a substantial additional expense that did not previously factor into the family's finances.

Enrolling in Health Insurance Under the ACA After a Divorce

Premiums in many states and at many or all of the ACA's coverage levels are increasing for 2018. As reported by NPR, "premiums are going up, in some areas by double digits, due in part to the Trump administration's mid-October decision to cut off cost-sharing subsidies to insurers."

With additional changes, if not an outright repeal of Obamacare, likely to follow, divorcing spouses will want to carefully consider their options for maintaining health insurance coverage during the divorce process.

If you are contemplating a divorce, or if you are recently divorced and need to obtain private health insurance coverage, what do you need to know about open enrollment? Here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

1. If Your Spouse has Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance, You May Be Entitled to Continued Coverage for Three Years.

Divorcing (and recently-divorced) spouses should find out if they can retain their existing coverage under Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

COBRA allows former spouses to remain on qualifying employer-sponsored health insurance plans for up to three years.

Make sure to weigh all options when making decisions about health insurance coverage.

2. You Can Preview Pricing and Plan Options Online

To get an idea of what you can expect to pay during 2018 if you purchase health insurance under Obamacare, you can use this tool provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Type in your ZIP code and answer the questions that follow to see the premiums for Bronze, Silver, Gold and other alternative plans.

3. If You Miss Open Enrollment, You May Qualify for a Special Enrollment Period

While open enrollment ends December 15, the ACA offers Special Enrollment Periods for individuals who lose qualifying health insurance coverage at different times during the year. This includes individuals who lose coverage due to:

  • COBRA coverage expiration
  • Divorce or legal separation

However, terms and conditions apply; and, since we are currently in an open enrollment period, anyone who thinks they may need private insurance coverage during 2018 should make sure they are eligible before relying on special enrollment.

4. You Can Account for the Cost of Health Insurance During Your Divorce

Costing thousands of dollars annually, private health insurance premiums under the ACA represent a significant expense, and coinsurance plans can result in thousands of dollars in additional costs for individuals who incur substantial medical bills in a single year. If your divorce is not yet final, you should talk with your attorney about the options that are available for obtaining financial support following your divorce.

Speak with a Cleveland Divorce Attorney at Laubacher & Co.

If you have questions about health insurance coverage related to your divorce, we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary consultation. Evening and weekend appointments are available. To schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys, call our Cleveland law offices at 440-462-1882 or inquire online today.

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