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Over 50 and getting a Divorce - medical care issues

Over 50 and getting a Divorce presents challenges concerning health care issues. Health insurance, important for everyone, becomes vital as we age and develop health issues.

Usually, at least one party is covered by employer-sponsored private medical health insurance; the spouse is typically covered under that plan. While some plans allow the spouse to remain on after a divorce, others do not. This is critical information to provide your Rhode Island divorce attorney as early as possible. If the employer's plan will not permit a divorced spouse to remain on the plan, that spouse's budget must include future health insurance premiums. It is an issue to be negotiated in the settlement.

One option is to obtain a Divorce from Bed and Board, which is a formalized legal separation. Since the parties remain married, the spouse remains on the health insurance plan.

COBRA, an option with significant costs, protects individuals covered by group health insurance and is designed to provide a continuation of coverage when there is a change in circumstances or a "qualifying event" such as a divorce. COBRA is usually limited to 18 months, though in this situation, it may continue for up to 36 months, provided that the employee meets the notice requirements. COBRA applies to businesses that have 20 or more employee covered by health insurance. To maintain COBRA coverage, the insured must pay the entire premium for all plan costs without any assistance from the employer. For more information, see http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-consumer-cobra.html

Medicare provides health care coverage for people 65 and older, or under 65 with certain disabilities. If one spouse has not worked and is not entitled to coverage under his/her own account, coverage may be available if the parties were validly married for at least 10 years before the Final Judgment and the "working" spouse has not been remarried to another spouse for more than 10 years.

Medicaid may provide coverage for those who meet the stringent means test, having insignificant assets and severely limited income.

Another consideration is that onceseparated, each party should prepare a new health care directive or health care power of attorney, naming the person(s) who can make health care decisions for him/her. When there is no spouse, or a conflicted relationship between the spouses, it becomes very important to put into writing the wishes for end of life decisions and who should make other medical decisions. In Rhode Island, it is also suggested to appoint a person to make funeral arrangements as well.

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Law Office of Steven J. Hirsch, Esq

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