The simple answer is, “no, military health insurance does not have to stop once the divorce is final” – however, it is much more complicated than that. If you are a 20/20/20 spouse as detailed below, you may be entitled to free healthcare going forward indefinitely, as long as you do not remarry and as long as you are not enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan. There is also something called a 20/20/15 spouse which entitles military spouses to one-year of free healthcare coverage following the divorce. The question is a bit more complicated for military spouses who were married for less than 20 years. The good news is that there is a premium-based health care program administered by Human Military Healthcare called the “Continued Health Care Benefit Program” or “CHCBP”. If qualified, military spouses can purchase continuing health care coverage for 18 to 36 months after losing military healthcare benefits.
As discussed on many pages in this website, health insurance provided by the military to service-members and service-members’ spouses can be quite beneficial. It can also be an important factor in deciding when to file a divorce case. In some instances, depending on the timing and length of the marriage, it can be a major contributing factor in delaying the filing for divorce. Make sure you discuss the timing of filing your divorce case with an attorney prior to initiating any lawsuits so that you do not adversely affect this important benefit. If you are approaching 20 years of marriage to a service-member then you most certainly should take extra caution and consult with an attorney before commencing a divorce action against your spouse.
For spouses who have been married for over 20 years to a service-member who simultaneously served for those 20 years or more, health insurance is much less of an issue.
You may have heard the term 20-20-20 spouse. This simply refers to:
1. 20 years of military service
2. 20 years of marriage
3. AND 20 years of overlap between the military service and marriage.
This is important because if you are such a spouse, then you are entitled to full military medical care, including TRICARE, if you are not enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan. This also means you are entitled to Commissary and Exchange privileges.
Most folks know that a service-member who retires after 20 years of active military service will be entitled to healthcare going forward. The 20/20/20 spouse provision honors the long term dedication military spouses have given to their service-member spouse in supporting his or her military career.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THIS APPLIES TO UN-REMARRIED FORMER SPOUSES – AND IT IS CURRENTLY FOR LIFE!
There is also something called a 20/20/15 spouse. This refers to 20 years of military service, 20 years of marriage, and between 15 but less than 20 years of overlap between the two. If you qualify as a 20/20/15 spouse, you can receive full military medical care, including TRICARE, for a period of one year from the date of divorce - provided you are not enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan.
Continued Health Care Benefit Program (“CHCBP”)
CHCBP is a premium-based health care program administered by Humana Military Healthcare Services, Inc. CHCBP is available to former uniformed service-members and their families, including former active duty service members, qualified family members, unremarried former spouses, adult children, and unmarried children by adoption or legal custody.
CHCBP is not a TRICARE program but it offers coverage very similar to TRICARE Standard. One of the main differences is that premium payments are required. There are also individual plans, as well as family coverage plans. CHCBP coverage is purchased in 90-day increments and the premiums are billed quarterly. CHCBP coverage does not include eligibility at military treatment facilities for routine, urgent or specialty care, or for pharmacy services at military treatment facilities.
If you are the spouse of a service-member, you should discuss the CHCBP benefit with an attorney who is educated about military related benefits. You and your attorney should be thinking about the various documents you will need from the service-member to properly apply for CHCBP coverage. Humana Military Healthcare Services, Inc. requires several pieces of documentation in order to verify eligibility for healthcare coverage. For example, you may be required to fill out DD Form 2837, which is a completed CHCBP application form, provide a DD 214 (certificate of release or discharge from active duty of the service-member), as well as a copy of the final divorce decree. There may be strict time limits as well – for example, CHCBP may require that the coverage be purchased within a certain number of days from a qualifying event – and you do not want to miss this window. A qualifying event can be when a former spouse loses his or her eligibility for TRICARE coverage. If you miss a 60-day window for enrolling in CHCBP, you may have lost this benefit permanently.
This can be very complicated and confusing. For example, a 20/20/15 spouse should be acutely aware of the 1-year TRICARE coverage option and then be extra-careful about enrolling CHCBP within the required window of the loss in coverage. The spouse of a service-member should also discuss with an attorney what effect a re-marriage can have on this and other military healthcare. Simply put, it can be lost.
Final Healthcare Thoughts
Perhaps one of the most important benefits that spouses of service-members think about during a divorce case is the continuing military, healthcare benefit – particularly for those spouses who haven’t worked in quite some time. This section discusses a few options available to an unremarried former spouse of a service-member. There is a CHCBP handbook that is available on-line and there is also quite a bit of information on the TRICARE website as well. There is no better advice than discussing this issue with an attorney skilled in military-related benefits to see how military healthcare affects your case. The last thing you would want to do is miss a qualifying event and be locked out of being able to apply for a benefit you sorely need and could have been eligible for.