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Nebraska Divorce Decree - healthcare coverage exception and ERISA Preemption


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We have a client with a self-funded health plan. Ex-spouse of employee in Nebraska claims he should still be covered for 6 months (until divorce decree is final for purposes of health plan per Nebraska statute). 

Question: because the plan is self-funded would ERISA preemption apply? Would the answer be different if the plan was insured?

Nebraska Statue Below:

42-372.01. Decree; when final.

(1) Except for purposes of appeal as prescribed in section 42-372, for purposes of remarriage as prescribed in subsection (2) of this section, and for purposes of continuation of health insurance coverage as prescribed in subsection (3) of this section, a decree dissolving a marriage becomes final and operative thirty days after the decree is entered or on the date of death of one of the parties to the dissolution, whichever occurs first. If the decree becomes final and operative upon the date of death of one of the parties to the dissolution, the decree shall be treated as if it became final and operative the date it was entered.

(2) For purposes of remarriage other than remarriage between the parties, a decree dissolving a marriage becomes final and operative six months after the decree is entered or on the date of death of one of the parties to the dissolution, whichever occurs first. If the decree becomes final and operative upon the date of death of one of the parties to the dissolution, the decree shall be treated as if it became final and operative the date it was entered.

(3) For purposes of continuation of health insurance coverage, a decree dissolving a marriage becomes final and operative six months after the decree is entered.

(4) A decree dissolving a marriage rendered prior to September 9, 1995, which is not final and operative becomes operative pursuant to the provisions of section 42-372 as such section existed immediately preceding September 9, 1995.

Source:Laws 1995, LB 544, § 2; Laws 1997, LB 434, § 1; Laws 2000, LB 921, § 34.

 

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Caliben, I would tread carefully with this one and advise that employer hire a Nebraska ERISA lawyer. If the plan is self-insured, ERISA would preempt state law, but depending on how the plan document reads, the determination of whether the marriage is in existence could depend on state law, since marriage is a state law status. The provision of Nebraska law quoted above seems to say that the marriage may still be in effect for six months. Again, you need to check with a Nebraska ERISA lawyer.

Luke Bailey

Senior Counsel

Clark Hill PLC

214-651-4572 (O) | LBailey@clarkhill.com

2600 Dallas Parkway Suite 600

Frisco, TX 75034

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