Continued Healthcare for Military Spouses
Former spouses of military service members who do not qualify for TRICARE benefits under the 20/20/20 Rule or the 20/20/15 Rule may still have an option available.
The Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP), is akin to COBRA coverage and is available to former spouses of military service members who do not qualify for TRICARE coverage. As long as the former spouse was covered by TRICARE on the day before the final decree of divorce was signed by the judge, coverage is available. However, the former spouse will be required to pay the premium for the continued coverage. The premiums are paid quarterly and are updated each year with an effective date of October 1st. If the coverage is not renewed before the end of each quarter, the policy will cancel and cannot be renewed. Coverage under the CHCBP must be purchased within sixty days of the loss of TRICARE coverage.
The advantage of CHCBP is the guarantee of coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions that might make obtaining private insurance coverage difficult. Although there is no minimum required length of the marriage and no minimum length of service requirement for eligibility, the former spouse must not have other coverage such as employer health care coverage available. The most common type of coverage, called transitional coverage, is available for thirty-six months.
There is a second type of CHCBP coverage called unlimited coverage. Additional requirements must be met to qualify for unlimited coverage. First, the former spouse must not have remarried before the age of 55. Second, the former spouse must have been enrolled as a dependent in an approved health care benefits program (TRICARE, DEERS, CHCBP) at some point during the 18 months prior to the end of the marriage. Third, the former spouse must be receiving a share of the service member’s military retirement or Survivor Benefit Plan annuity, or have a court order for the payment of any portion of the service member’s military retired pay, or a written agreement providing for a Survivor Benefit Plan annuity for the former spouse. If all of these conditions are met, the former spouse of a service member will be eligible for medical coverage through the CHCBP without any time limitations. In order to take advantage of the CHCBP, the former spouse must enroll as soon as possible after the divorce is final. There is a time limit within which enrollment must occur, measured from the date of the entry of the final decree of divorce. Failure to do so will result in the loss of the CHCBP.