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Health insurance can be extremely important to anyone with ongoing serious health problems. Almost any bill from a doctor or hospital will be in multiple thousands of dollars and many of us will have a hard time just coming up with the price of a routine doctor visit when we have a problem that will not go away on its own. Health insurance is most typically accessed through the employment of one or both spouses and coverage has even expanded to be made available to significant others in circumstances that satisfy the health insurance company’s guidelines. But when a couple truly ends their relationship, such as in a divorce, health insurance companies very seldom allow the covered ex-spouse’s insurance plan to cover the other ex-spouse. That is viewed exactly the same as two unrelated people residing in two different places trying to both be on the health insurance plan of one of them as if they were a family unit when they are not. Insurance companies do not play Santa Claus.

Since I established my law practice for simple, uncontested, low-cost, no-fault divorces in 1980 (when Pennsylvania first allowed such divorces), I recall only two instances where one ex-spouse with access to insurance from the employer was able to continue to carry the other ex on the plan. Only in one of those two instances was no additional premium payment required. Otherwise, in the tens of thousands of other cases, they were told, “You are not married anymore so we will not provide insurance for your ex under your plan.”

It is not unheard of for a spouse to refuse to allow a divorce unless health insurance continues, either for an agreed length of time or indefinitely. In such cases, if the party filing the divorce wants it badly enough and can afford it, that party agrees to buy the other an acceptable health insurance plan from some provider, but not through the employer.

There have been quite a few long, hard-fought, contested divorces between parties separated many years wherein the judge refused to allow the divorce if the loss of health insurance meant the party who would be without it after the divorce would suffer grievously or even die.