Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Marital COBRA

In Rev. Rul. 2002-88, 2002-52 I.R.B. 995, the Service was presented with a case where one spouse had employer-provided health insurance benefits covering both himself/herself and his/her spouse. In “anticipation of a divorce” the spouse who had the employer-provided coverage terminated the coverage of the other spouse. The Service held that “If an employee eliminates the coverage of the employee's spouse under a group health plan in anticipation of their divorce, a plan that is required to make COBRA continuation coverage available to the spouse must begin to make that coverage available as of the date of the divorce.”

A couple of points are of interest.

First, under the facts set forth in the ruling, there was apparently not a significant hiatus between the date coverage was terminated and the divorce. The outcome may very well have been different if, as part of a protracted marital war, the spouse with coverage had terminated the other spouse’s coverage as part of preliminary skirmishing.

Second, the plan administrator was provided with notice of the divorce within 60 days after the issuance of the divorce decree. This supports the first point, above, but also serves as a warning that someone ought to make certain that, in all cases where one spouse provides coverage for the family, the plan administrator gets notice of the divorce within the 60 period after the issuance of the divorce decree.

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