Many divorcing couples do not know their rights and the law regarding health insurance after divorce. Women are twice as likely as men to be dependent on their spouses’ health coverage through their employer. Both New Hampshire and Massachusetts laws can protect the former spouse and under the right circumstances at no additional cost.
New Hampshire laws on continued coverage after Divorce:
(RSA 415:18, VII b) effective January 1, 2008, allows a former spouse continued coverage on the subscriber employee’s group health insurance policy for up to three years following the final decree of divorce. The law applies to both medical and dental coverage. A former spouse remains eligible for coverage until one of the following events occurs, whichever is earliest:
1. Three (3) years from the final decree of divorce or legal separation;
2. Remarriage of either the covered employee of the former spouse;
3. Death of the covered employee; or
4. Such earlier time as provided in the final decree.
Unlike COBRA, under New Hampshire’s continuing coverage statute, insurers are required to make the health insurance available without additional premiums and are required to contribute to the former spouse’s coverage as if the divorce had not occurred. This law only applies to group health insurance policies, not employer plans that are self-insured.
Massachusetts laws on continued coverage after Divorce:
Massachusetts laws are similar but vary in regarding duration, remarriage rules, and certain self-insured employers as described below:
1. Eligibility for coverage lasts as long as the insured spouse is a participant in a group plan, whether judgment was entered before the effective date of the plan. Unlike New Hampshire, there is not a 3-year limitation.
2. The coverage ends when the dependent spouse remarries, but the judgment may provide for coverage to continue after the insured spouse remarries. See, e.g., G.L. c. 175 §110I(b). As long as the insured spouse has not remarried, the insurer may not charge an additional premium for the family coverage. G.L. c. 175 §110I(a).
3. Pursuant to the above laws, if a member of a group plan is a party to a judgment absolute of divorce or separate support, the member’s spouse “shall be and remain eligible” for coverage, “as if said judgment had not been entered.” See, e.g., G.L. c. 175, §110I(a).
4. State, county and municipal government employees in Massachusetts enjoy the same protections. G.L. c. 32A, § 11A; G.L. c. 32B, § 9H. In New Hampshire state employers are self-insured and therefore the former spouse is not eligible for coverage upon a Separation Agreement or Divorce.
Our family law lawyers would be happy to help you if you have any divorce and family law needs. Please call one of the family law attorneys at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey at (603) 288-1403 to assist you.