There are two possibilities for non-military spouses of military service members to continue their healthcare coverage. You may be eligible for TRICARE coverage. If you are not, you can buy conversion health coverage under the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP), which gives you the same insurance federal employees get.
The divorced, non-military spouse of a military service member may be eligible for lifetime TRICARE on their own. This no-cost coverage is available to those who meet the “20/20/20 rule.” That is to say:
- You were married for 20 years or longer
- Your spouse served 20 years or longer in the military, and
- The marriage and service overlapped for at least 20 years
If your marriage almost meets these criteria, you might consider waiting until you reach 20/20/20 before filing for divorce. The 20/20/20 rule is calculated upon the divorce being finalized.
It’s important to understand that your lifetime TRICARE coverage goes away permanently if you get married again. Also, if you have or get private insurance, TRICARE will become secondary coverage. That means that the private insurance would be billed first for all medical care. Only if something were not covered by your private insurance would TRICARE pay anything.
Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP)
If you are not eligible for lifetime TRICARE, you can still buy insurance through the CHCBP for 36 months, or 48 months if you satisfy the “20/20/15” rule upon the date of your divorce. In order to qualify, you must have been covered by TRICARE or TAMP (Transitional Assistance Management Program) on the day before your divorce was finalized.
However, CHCBP coverage can continue indefinitely if you meet certain conditions:
- You were covered by TRICARE or other approved benefits at some point during the 18 months before your divorce
- You were not covered by any other health insurance plan
- You are entitled to a share of your ex-spouse’s pension or Survivor Benefit Plan coverage
- You have not remarried (if under age 55)
- You pay the required quarterly advance premiums
- You meet the application deadlines – you must enroll in the CHCBP within 60 days of losing your previous health coverage (which is typically the date of your divorce decree)
Determining your eligibility for military benefits is one of the most important parts of a divorce involving a military service member. Be sure to work with a lawyer who has experience in military divorces.