Health insurance has been a hotly debated and discussed topic in the media this year. One aspect of the health insurance discussion that is rarely addressed is the cost of health insurance in the context of divorce proceedings. In fact, as health care expenditures increase, health insurance has a growing role in child support determinations. This is particularly true in Massachusetts, where health care expenditures are growing more rapidly than other economic indicators such as wages, consumer prices, and per capita GDP. (SOURCE: Massachusetts Health Care Cost Trends: Historical (1991 – 2004) and Projected (2004 – 2020), Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, November 2009.)
When determining child support obligations, the court will address whether the spouse that is paying the child support has health insurance coverage available to him or her at a “reasonable cost” that can be extended to the lower earning spouse and their children after divorce. Since the passage of the 2006 health reform law, it is highly likely that they do. In fact, approximately 98.1 percent of Massachusetts residents have health insurance coverage, including 99.8 percent of children. (SOURCE: Massachusetts Health Reform: A Five-Year Progress Report, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, November 2011). Additionally, Massachusetts law ensures that divorced spouses will continue to stay eligible on their spouse’s policy. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 32A, § 11A. Specifically, Massachusetts does not allow health insurance companies to rescind eligibility for a divorced spouse on their ex-spouse’s policy just because they are divorced. In fact, insurance companies cannot rescind coverage based on their status as divorced from the policy holder until the divorced spouse remarries. Even if the policy holder remarries, the divorced spouse will continue to be eligible to stay on the policy.
Once the court determines that health care coverage is available at a reasonable cost, it typically has three options. It can mandate that the person paying child support (1) exercise the option of additional coverage for the spouse and the children through their current health care insurer, (2) obtain separate coverage for the spouse and children, or (3) reimburse the spouse for the cost of health insurance.
If you are in a contested divorce, it is important to know what health insurance options exist in arguing that a spouse does, in fact, have coverage available to him or her at a reasonable cost that can be extended to you and your dependent children. For those divorcing parties who are entering into an uncontested divorce, this information is vital to informed cost-sharing discussions with your spouse.