The government provides fully paid health insurance for members of the military and their families during active duty. Reservists, who aren’t always on active duty, often have insurance coverage through their employers, but that coverage usually isn’t free.
It’s a bad idea for reservists to drop that coverage during deployment in favor of free military insurance. That’s especially true if family members are undergoing treatment and don’t want any coverage changes, such as having to switch doctors.
This is one reason that the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) allows employees to maintain employer-provided coverage.
The question becomes: Should the employer automatically keep coverage, drop coverage or ask the employee what he or she prefers?
Recent case: David worked as a police officer in Vicksburg, Mich., and was a reservist in the Michigan National Guard. The village provided health insurance coverage, but as a union member, David paid for a substantial portion of the premium.
He was called to active duty for service in Afghanistan. Early during his absence, the village took money from his paid leave account to pay the health insurance premiums. It then concluded it shouldn’t have made those deductions and credited the withdrawal back, but sent David a bill for the premiums.
David sued, claiming the village should have dropped his health plan automatically and that by keeping the plan in place, it violated USERRA.
The court disagreed. USERRA doesn’t require dropping coverage absent a request to continue it. (Eichaker v. Village of Vicksburg, No. 1:12-CV-1350, WD MI 2015)
Final note: Be sure to discuss insurance coverage when finalizing a military-connected employee’s upcoming deployment. Ask whether he or she wants to continue coverage and arrange premium payments.
Don’t automatically drop or retain health insurance coverage.