Health Insurance in a Divorce

In Massachusetts, health insurance coverage for spouses after divorce may be continued by statute unless state law is preempted by federal law. Such preemption occurs when the employer is self-insured, in whole or in part. The employer’s human resources or benefits department should be consulted to determine whether state law or federal law applies. Under state law, health insurance coverage can continue until one of the parties remarries. If the party providing the insurance remarries, the other party is eligible for coverage for an indefinite period of time through a rider on the family plan or an individual plan, but typically pays the cost of the coverage, unsubsidized by the employer. If the party not providing the insurance remarries, he or she will be responsible for obtaining independent coverage elsewhere.

Under federal law, health insurance coverage terminates on divorce, subject to the nonemployee’s right to elect continuation coverage under COBRA for a period of up to three (3) years after the divorce. The non-employee spouse typically pays the unsubsidized cost of the COBRA coverage.