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Health Insurance and Divorce:                                     Make It a Priority

Written by Dr. Lynne C. Halem,                      October, 2014


Health Insurance and Divorce:  Make It a Priority

 

 

Separation and divorce is a time of many changes: Residences may be sold and/or

new ones purchased; accounts may be transferred and/or divided or closed; where

once there was one primary home, now there are two.  The emotional and financial

impact of this myriad change can be monumental.  Yet there is one more asset that

should not be left out of the separation agreement, without tempting severe 

instability: namely health insurance coverage.

 

 

The division of assets, the allocation of support, and the assignment of parenting

arrangements correctly occupy center stage in divorce negotiations.  After all, these

are the areas that keep individuals up at night, and often generate contentious legal

battles. Here, we suggest that health insurance also emerges as a primary area to be

incorporated in the overall structuring of the parties’ agreement. By law, each spouse

and child must be covered by medical insurance, but mandatory or not, the importance

of adequate and affordable coverage is of critical importance to the future health and

the financial well-being of all family members.

 

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts, as a state, mandated

medical insurance coverage.  Further, Massachusetts’ law provided that an ex-spouse

could continue to be covered under the former spouse’s policy provided the employer

was not self-insured.  This was, and still is, a major benefit in the Commonwealth. 

 

Although large companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, are often self-insured, many  

others are not.  The access for ex-spouses to employer-assisted coverage, typically at

no additional charge to that of their existing policy, provides a major benefit and

significant savings to the family. 

 

In all divorce negotiations, access to, and liability for the cost of health insurance coverage after divorce, must be agreed to and specified in the final Separation Agreement.

 

 

In families where ex-spouses are eligible to continue to be covered under their former

spouse’s policies, questions, which are still to be answered, include:

 



The shared problem-solving approach of mediation in tackling these issues can prove invaluable.  

 

Mediation provides a collaborative environment conducive to amicably working out

issues that pertain to both individuals’ access to health insurance and to the fair

apportionment of cost.  Agreements pertaining to health coverage must be court

ordered, and as such, if omitted from your Agreement, coverage will not be

guaranteed regardless of employer policy or the insured employee’s desire to provide

extended coverage to his/her former spouse.  Health insurance provisions must not be

overlooked in the structuring of the terms of your Agreement.  It is, and should be, a

key area of concern to all divorcing families for its financial impact on, and  health

benefit to all members of the family.

 



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