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Ladies: Protect Your Health Insurance During Divorce

Here are health insurance options to consider.

Your own employer's health plan

Ask to enroll in coverage at work if your employer offers it. Federal law says you can enroll outside the annual open enrollment period if you've lost access to health insurance coverage elsewhere. Looking for work? If you're fortunate to find a job that offers health benefits, find out how long you'll have to wait to enroll. Then plan how to fill the insurance gap during the waiting period, typically 30 to 60 days for new employees.

COBRA

The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act lets you continue coverage through your ex-spouse's employer-sponsored health plan for up to 36 months after divorce, if the employer has at least 20 workers. (Many states have similar laws that apply to employers with fewer than 20 workers.) You have to pay the full premium, plus up to a 2 percent administrative fee. You have 60 days after you lose coverage to decide whether to elect COBRA. Know your COBRA rights.

Prepare for sticker shock. Without the employer chipping in, the premiums can be pricey. Contact your spouse's employee benefits department to find out how much you would pay for COBRA, and review the plan to learn about out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and copayments.

Individual health insurance plan

If you're young and fairly healthy, you might find more affordable coverage than COBRA by purchasing an individual health plan. Plus, under the Affordable Care Act, starting in 2014 health insurers will not be allowed to deny coverage or charge higher premiums for people with health conditions. Until then, insurers consider your health history when you apply for individual coverage.

Don't count yourself out if you have a condition, Callahan says. "There is a continuum between yes and no."

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