Does Rhode Island Law force an employer to allow an ex spouse to be covered with health Insurance?
Rhode Island Has enacted the Rhode Island Health Insurance Continuation act. This act allows a person to remain on their ex-husband or ex-wives health Insurance after Final Judgment of Divorce.
Unfortunately, this act has been watered down by recent case law out of the Federal Court District of Rhode Island. The case of Duclos v. General Dynamics Corp., 12 E.B.C. (BNA) 2648 (D.R.I. 1990) stands for the proposition that The Rhode Island health Insurance Continuation act is Preempted by ERISA. ERISA is a Federal Statute. Under Common Law, if a federal statute and state statute relate to similar topics, Federal Law may preempt state law. The Federal Preemption Doctrine is "a doctrine in law that allows a federal law to take precedence over or to displace a state law in certain matters of national importance (as interstate commerce)" Dictionary.com
Duclos v. General Dynamics Corp., 12 E.B.C. (BNA) 2648 (D.R.I. 1990) ruled that the "Rhode Island statute requiring certain divorced spou
What should a person do during the divorce to find out if health insurance is available?
During the pendency of the divorce, the parties should determine the employers policy and procedures related to continuation of coverage after Final Judgment of Divorce. If possible, they should seek the company policy in writing from the Companies benefits administrator. The Obligations of Rhode Island based companies to comply with the Rhode Island Health Insurance Continuation Act is beyond the scope of this Article.
Is there any particular language that should be in the Decision Pending and Final Judgment of Divorce?
If a spouse will be remaining on his or her ex spouse's insurance then the following language should and must be put on the record at the Rhode Island Nominal Divorce Hearing and be memorialized into the Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment as well as the Final Judgment of Divorce:
"Plaintiff shall provide Defendant with Health Insurance and Dental Insurance pursuant to the Rhode Island Health Insurance Continuation Act."
This language should be put on the record and memorialized into the Decision Pending and Final Judgment of Divorce even if the employer will be removing the spouse after Final Judgment of Divorce!
How is the above described language interpreted by Judges of the Rhode Island Family Court?
The above described language incorporated into the Final Judgment of Divorce is usually interpreted by Judges of The Rhode Island Family Court as meaning the following:
1) If there is an additional expense over and above the cost of a single plan for the ex spouse to remain covered by the health insurance plan then the ex spouse must pay that additional amount or he / she may be removed from the Health Insurance policy.
2) If the person with Health Insurance loses their job, or goes to another employer then the ex spouse will probably lose health Insurance coverage.
3) If either party (husband or wife) remarries than the ex spouse may lose Health Insurance coverage.
Should anything be put on the record at the Nominal Divorce Hearing?
It is usually a good idea to specifically put on the record at the nominal divorce hearing, that the ex spouse is required to pay any additional premium over and above the cost of a Single Plan or they will be removed from the insurance. These issues can get confusing if the cost for a family plan includes the children and there is no additional expense for the spouse. Please consult with a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer about these issues.
What other options are available for Health Insurance?
COBRA Heath Insurance may be a worthwhile option for Ex Spouses after Final judgment of Divorce."Under COBRA, employers must offer the option of continued health insurance coverage at group rates to qualified employees and their families who are faced with loss of coverage due to certain events." CRS Report for Congress Health Insurance Continuation Coverage march 2005 "... When the qualifying event, however, is a covered employee's divorce or legal separation, COBRA coverage lasts for thirty-six months."
What type of Health Insurance Coverage is COBRA?
COBRA provides that employers who provide their employees with medical coverage must provide continuation coverage to employees and their families who would otherwise lose coverage under the employer's plan as a result of a qualifying event. Qualifying events include: (a) a covered employee's divorce or legal separation....Once a qualifying event occurs, the covered employee, his or her spouse, or dependents seeking COBRA coverage must elect such coverage within 60 days of the occurrence of the qualifying event and must pay the required premiums." Marsha Zolla, Healthcare and family Law