Divorce, Health Insurance, and the SAHM
One of the most common questions I see in the various divorce support groups I belong to is women who are SAHM or underemployed asking what they should do about health insurance now that they are divorcing. I used to be a volunteer community insurance aid, so I know quite a bit about it and thought I would step in and offer some help.
First, find out if you can stay on your soon-to-be ex’s health insurance plan and if so, for how long. Every state is different and some will allow this; some will also allow you to be on his employer’s COBRA plan. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to get the court to order him to pay for it. My sister got her ex to pay for her health insurance for quite a while after their divorce but they had extenuating circumstances, as Mr. Loving Husband brought home an STD. Even if you can’t stay on his plan, your children might be able to do so. Check with your attorney.
Secondly, avoid the standard private insurance plans. These are the ones you can go on the web and buy anytime and find through brokers. They are expensive, don’t cover everything, and can deny you coverage entirely or charge you more due to preexisting conditions. Are you a type 2 diabetic? They probably won’t cover it. Same for a dozen other conditions. (Being a woman is considered a preexisting condition, by the way.) Some of these policies don’t provide enough coverage to be considered actual insurance under the law.
Third, see if you qualify for Medicaid in your state. If you do, they’ll cover everything. It’s not the best insurance because not everyone will take it, but it’ll take care of you.
Okay, let’s say you can’t stay on your husband’s plan, you don’t qualify for Medicaid, and you know to avoid the “insurance” plans that aren’t proper insurance. So what do you do? You need to look at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Some people have an irrational dislike of this program, but it’s fabulous. I’m going to spend the rest of this piece talking about it and what you need to do.
The ACA has open enrollment at the end of the year, but you qualify for something called a special enrollment plan if you lose your insurance mid-year and can still sign up. There are three tiers of plans through the ACA: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Bronze plans are crap; avoid them like the plague. Gold plans are overpriced. What you’re going to want to look at are the Silver Plans, particularly the ones that come up with “extra savings” designations. I don’t know who the fuck came up with this crazy system, but it’s ridiculous.
The sticker prices on these plans are obscene but don’t choke; it’s like buying a car -almost no one pays the sticker price. Chances are if you are in this situation, you qualify for a tax credit, also called a subsidy. You can choose to have them pay it upfront and reduce your monthly premium. This tax credit is based on your expected income for the year. If your income changes, you’re supposed to report it, but you can also settle up on your taxes the next year.
So how much will it cost you to get insurance under the ACA? Let’s say you’re my age, 37, with one dependent, and you expect to make $25,000 this year. This is what you’ll pay for the best plan in various parts of the country.
North Carolina: $72.21
New Jersey: $44.11
These plans can’t deny you for preexisting conditions nor charge you more. They also have to cover them. Type 2 diabetes? Covered. Pregnant? Covered. Preventative care? Covered. Random hair loss due to the stress of the divorce? Covered.
And in all of these cases, your children will be covered by either Medicaid (which is great for children) or the state’s children’s health insurance program. So don’t panic, ladies; the vast majority of you will still be able to get health insurance!
Bonus: ACA plans are required to cover mental health care at par with physical health care. I see so many of you asking about low-cost therapy, and this is one way to get it. The co-pay for my therapist is the same as for my primary care doctor.