Senate OKs post-divorce health insurance

The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill Thursday that would require insurance companies to cover divorced spouses as if they are still part of the family, until either spouse remarries.

Supporters of House Bill 197 – sponsored by Sen. Sheila Roberge, R-Bedford, – argued that it would protect spouses during a financially difficult time at little or no cost to insurers. They maintained that the cost would be the same paid by the family before the divorce.

But opponents – which included the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire – argued that there will be a cost, that they would be requiring companies to cover more family members longer than they would otherwise under the federal COBRA law, and with extra administrative costs. For very small businesses with under 20 employers (which are not subject to COBRA) it would be an extra burden as well, the BIA said.

Opponents also said the bill raises the thorny question of what happens in the case when employers covers their employees’ insurance premium, but the spouse has to pay his or her portion of the premiums. After the divorce, who would pay that premium?

Sen. Margaret Hansen, D-Exeter, said that would be part of the “conversation that happens” or the divorce decree. Opponents said that these questions should be answered before the bill moves forward. The Senate, however, passed it on a voice vote and sent it to the House. – BOB SANDERS

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