Divorced parents – sharing health costs for child

When I got divorced five years ago, the agreement was that my ex-husband would cover our daughter’s health insurance and I would pay the deductible and co-pays.  This worked all right, until two things happened.  One, our daughter was diagnosed with depression; and two, his plan’s deductible and co-pays went way up.  She sees a therapist every week, and takes an anti-depressant every day.  She’s doing well and I’m glad about that.  But it costs me $150 a month just for the co-pays.

I found out that he has a choice of two plans from his employer, and he took the less generous plan.  This seems unfair to me, because I am stuck with more medical bills for her so that he can have more money in his paycheck.

Is there anything I can do?

Healthy Daughter, Anemic Wallet

Dear Healthy Daughter, Anemic Wallet,

Your best option is to negotiate for more child support, given your daughter’s greater needs.  The court cannot order your ex-husband to choose a particular health insurance plan.  Some divorce agreements even allow the parent to stop covering the child if the costs are not “reasonable”.  (You might want to make sure your agreement doesn’t have this escape clause in it.  Otherwise, your husband would be able to drop your daughter’s coverage altogether.)

Co-pays have crept upwards every year.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 58 percent of all employer plans have a co-pay between $20 and $30 for primary care doctor visits in 2011.  Just one year earlier, only 52 percent of plans had a co-pay in that range.  A growing percentage of plans have co-pays higher than $30.    The co-pays you are paying sound about right for four therapy visits and a prescription.  It’s cold comfort, but count your blessings – lots of plans would have you paying even more of the bill.

What you are facing is a common problem, not your ex-husband’s evil doing.  You will have greater success if you approach this as a problem to solve together, rather than you against your ex-husband.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.