Health Insurance Coverage as a Child Support Add-On
Family Code 4006 states, “In a proceeding for child support under this code, including, but not limited to, Division 17 (commencing with Section 17000), the court shall consider the health insurance coverage, if any, of the parties to the proceeding.”
It is difficult to understate the importance of health insurance coverage in today's world. No matter where you may lean politically (whether you believe federally created healthcare is wrong or you believe it is right) the rising cost of medical care has made seeing a doctor for even routine examinations cost prohibitive for the middle income family.
The California Family Code requires the family law judge to consider each parent's health insurance coverage for the minor children. This health insurance coverage includes dental and vision care. So long as the cost is reasonable, the court will order one or both parents to maintain health insurance for the children. This cost to maintain the insurance is separate from the child support amounts.
So what is reasonable?
Family Code 3751 states the following:
(a) (1) Support orders issued or modified pursuant to this chapter shall include a provision requiring the child support obligor to keep the agency designated under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 651 et seq.) informed of whether the obligor has health insurance coverage at a reasonable cost and, if so, the health insurance policy information.
(2) In any case in which an amount is set for current support, the court shall require that health insurance coverage for a supported child shall be maintained by either or both parents if that insurance is available at no cost or at a reasonable cost to the parent. Health insurance coverage shall be rebuttably presumed to be reasonable in cost if the cost to the responsible parent providing medical support does not exceed 5 percent of his or her gross income. In applying the 5 percent for the cost of health insurance, the cost is the difference between self-only and family coverage. If the obligor is entitled to a low-income adjustment as provided in paragraph (7) of subdivision (b) of Section 4055, medical support shall be deemed not reasonable, unless the court determines that not requiring medical support would be unjust and inappropriate in the particular case. If the court determines that the cost of health insurance coverage is not reasonable, the court shall state its reasons on the record. If the court determines that, although the obligor is entitled to a low-income adjustment, not requiring medical support would be unjust and inappropriate, the court shall state its reasons on the record.
(b) If the court determines that health insurance coverage is not available at no cost or at a reasonable cost, the court’s order for support shall contain a provision that specifies that health insurance coverage shall be obtained if it becomes available at no cost or at a reasonable cost. Upon health insurance coverage at no cost or at a reasonable cost becoming available to a parent, the parent shall apply for that coverage.
(c) The court’s order for support shall require the parent who, at the time of the order or subsequently, provides health insurance coverage for a supported child to seek continuation of coverage for the child upon attainment of the limiting age for a dependent child under the health insurance coverage if the child meets the criteria specified under Section 1373 of the Health and Safety Code or Section 10277 or 10278 of the Insurance Code and that health insurance coverage is available at no cost or at a reasonable cost to the parent or parents, as applicable.”
That means in the great majority of instances, the employed parent who has access to group health insurance coverage can reasonably provide such coverage for his or her children.
California Family Code 3751.5 also goes into great detail regarding what the health insurance company's obligations are. Parents should become familiar with these provisions. Family Code 3751.5 states:
“(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an employer or insurer shall not deny enrollment of a child under the health insurance coverage of a child’s parent on any of the following grounds:
(1) The child was born out of wedlock.
(2) The child is not claimed as a dependent on the parent’s federal income tax return.
(3) The child does not reside with the parent or within the insurer’s service area.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in any case in which a parent is required by a court or administrative order to provide health insurance coverage for a child and the parent is eligible for family health coverage through an employer or an insurer, the employer or insurer shall do all of the following, as applicable:
(1) Permit the parent to enroll under health insurance coverage any child who is otherwise eligible to enroll for that coverage, without regard to any enrollment period restrictions.
(2) If the parent is enrolled in health insurance coverage but fails to apply to obtain coverage of the child, enroll that child under the health coverage upon presentation of the court order or request by the local child support agency, the other parent or person having custody of the child, or the Medi-Cal program.
(3) The employer or insurer shall not disenroll or eliminate coverage of a child unless either of the following applies:
(A) The employer has eliminated family health insurance coverage for all of the employer’s employees.
(B) The employer or insurer is provided with satisfactory written evidence that either of the following apply:
(i) The court order or administrative order is no longer in effect or is terminated pursuant to Section 3770.
(ii) The child is or will be enrolled in comparable health insurance coverage through another insurer that will take effect not later than the effective date of the child’s disenrollment.
(c) In any case in which health insurance coverage is provided for a child pursuant to a court or administrative order, the insurer shall do all of the following:
(1) Provide any information, including, but not limited to, the health insurance membership or identification card regarding the child, the evidence of coverage and disclosure form, and any other information provided to the covered parent about the child’s health care coverage to the noncovered parent having custody of the child or any other person having custody of the child and to the local child support agency when requested by the local child support agency.
(2) Permit the noncovered parent or person having custody of the child, or a provider with the approval of the noncovered parent or person having custody, to submit claims for covered services without the approval of the covered parent.
(3) Make payment on claims submitted in accordance with subparagraph (2) directly to the noncovered parent or person having custody, the provider, or to the Medi-Cal program. Payment on claims for services provided to the child shall be made to the covered parent for claims submitted or paid by the covered parent.
(d) For purposes of this section, “insurer” includes every health care service plan, self-insured welfare benefit plan, including those regulated pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (29 U.S.C. Sec. 1001, et seq.), self-funded employer plan, disability insurer, nonprofit hospital service plan, labor union trust fund, employer, and any other similar plan, insurer, or entity offering a health coverage plan.
(e) For purposes of this section, “person having custody of the child” is defined as a legal guardian, a caregiver who is authorized to enroll the child in school or to authorize medical care for the child pursuant to Section 6550, or a person with whom the child resides.
(f) For purposes of this section, “employer” has the meaning provided in Section 5210.
(g) For purposes of this section, the insurer shall notify the covered parent and noncovered parent having custody of the child or any other person having custody of the child in writing at any time that health insurance for the child is terminated.
(h) The requirements of subdivision (g) shall not apply unless the court, employer, or person having custody of the child provides the insurer with one of the following:
(1) A qualified medical child support order that meets the requirements of subdivision (a) of Section 1169 of Title 29 of the United States Code.
(2) A health insurance coverage assignment or assignment order made pursuant to Section 3761.
(3) A national medical support notice made pursuant to Section 3773.
(i) The noncovered parent or person having custody of the child may contact the insurer, by telephone or in writing, and request information about the health insurance coverage for the child. Upon request of the noncovered parent or person having custody of the child, the insurer shall provide the requested information that is specific to the health insurance coverage for the child.”