My health insurance coverage is through my spouse’s employer. Will I be able to stay on the health insurance plan after I am divorced?

You may be able to continue coverage through a new law (RSA 415:18, VII b) that became effective on January 1, 2008 that allows a former spouse to continue 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. Under the provisions, of the new law, 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.


The former spouse has the right to continue coverage under this law only for so long as the employee subscriber maintains coverage under the same group health insurance plan. If the employee is terminated or leaves employment, the former spouse’s eligibility is not transferrable to the new employer.


Unlike COBRA and New Hampshire’s continuation coverage statute which allows additional premiums to be charged, the insurers are required to make the health insurance coverage available without additional premiums as if the divorce had not occurred. This is a key aspect of the law, since often times COBRA premiums are cost prohibitive and unaffordable to the family member who needs to continue coverage. Additionally, the employer is required to continue to contribute to the former spouse’s coverage as if the divorce had not occurred. The court may assign or the parties may agree as to how the employee’s portion of the premiums will be paid, either by the employee, by the former spouse, or shared by the parties.


As a caveat, the law applies only to group health insurance policies, and employer plans that are self-insured are not subject to the law’s continuation requirements. Several large private and state and federal government employers, such as Wal-Mart, Fidelity, and the State of New Hampshire, are self-insured and so those with former spouses who work for these self-insured employers will not be able to continue coverage under RSA 458:18, VII.


This new law supplements the COBRA benefits and continuing coverage statute that are all ready in place. If a former spouse is not eligible, e.g. remarriage of either party or the court has not allowed coverage under this statute, COBRA benefits may still be available to provide health insurance coverage.