N.H. Bill Would Extend Health Coverage Following Divorce

May 4, 2007

Men and women testified in favor of a bill in New Hampshire that would extend health insurance coverage to people who lose their insurance when their marriages break up.

Lisa Kuester, a mother of four who works part-time as a music educator, said she has relied on her husband’s insurance throughout her marriage. But her insurance is now threatened because her husband filed for divorce in June.

“While I wait to see if this will happen, I stand vulnerable and alone in a system that has offered no allies,” a tearful Kuester told the House Commerce Committee at a hearing.

The bill would require insurance companies to let divorced spouses like Kuester remain on the ex-spouse’s policies. Under existing state and federal laws, ex-spouses may buy extended coverage under those policies for three years after they divorce, but critics say the cost often is prohibitive.

Damon Josz of Sunapee also testified for the bill. He said after he and his wife divorced last year, he dropped coverage for himself and a daughter from a previous marriage because the coverage he was allowed to buy under a federal law known as COBRA would have cost three times more than the couple had paid for health insurance.

“This bill is not gender-specific. Both men and women are caught in rising problems with health-care access,” said Josz, a self-employed mechanic.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Association of American Health Insurance Plans opposed the bill. Both warned of higher costs for employers.

“Is it right to put this onto the employer-based system?” Anthem representative Mark Vattes asked.

BAE Systems of Nashua, the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and Business & Industry Association also indicated their opposition to the bill.

The bill would let divorced spouses stay on the ex-spouse’s plan indefinitely, or until they remarry. Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a sponsor of the bill, said letting ex-spouses go without health insurance costs taxpayers more in the long run.

“Its the right thing to do for health care, the right thing to do for the uninsured and the right thing to do for our state,” said Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.


Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.nashuatelegraph.com

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