If you receive health insurance through your spouse’s plan, provided by his employer, you may lose your eligibility for that insurance plan when you divorce. Though state laws vary on this issue, New Hampshire law enables a spouse who is covered under her spouse’s plan to continue coverage under certain circumstances. Additionally, federal law provides some continuation rights, and courts can order one spouse to pay for the other spouse’s insurance coverage.
New Hampshire’s continuation statute, RSA 415:18, VII b, became effective on January 1, 2008. It allows you, as a former spouse, to maintain insurance coverage under your ex-spouse’s employer-sponsored group policy for up to three years after your divorce, unless you or your ex-spouse remarries or dies during that three-year period. This law applies to medical and dental coverage; it can be terminated earlier than three years if early termination is allowed by your divorce decree. You only have the right to continue coverage under this law if your ex-spouse remains eligible for that insurance plan; therefore, if your ex-spouse gets fired or quits, your continuation benefits terminate.
You may also be eligible for coverage under the provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. COBRA coverage applies as long as your ex-spouse’s employer has at least 20 employees. However, COBRA is a self-funded option, meaning you must pay the full amount of the insurance premiums without any contributions from the employer. As a result, COBRA coverage can be prohibitively expensive. If you want COBRA coverage, you must inform the plan administrator of your choice within 60 days of the divorce; coverage continues for a maximum of 36 months.
You and your spouse can agree that he will pay a portion of your insurance coverage costs or maintain an individual health insurance policy for you, then include this agreed-upon obligation in your marital settlement agreement. If you cannot reach agreement, a New Hampshire court might order your ex-spouse to contribute to your insurance costs, particularly if you are otherwise unable to pay for your own insurance. Courts can also consider the cost of health insurance as one of your needs for purposes of determining an alimony amount.
Your child’s eligibility for health insurance is unlikely to change because of your divorce since he is still considered your ex-spouse’s dependent. New Hampshire child support orders include directions regarding health insurance and other medical costs. If health insurance is available at a reasonable cost, as determined by New Hampshire law, the court must order a child’s parents to provide insurance for the child. If affordable health insurance is not available at the time of your divorce, the court can include a statement in the child support order requiring you and your ex-spouse to purchase insurance should it later become available at a reasonable cost.