Health insurance for your minor children is an often overlooked component of Child Support in North Carolina. North Carolina family law does not requirement either parent to obtain health, hospitalization, dental, or vision insurance coverage for their minor children, but they may do so. However under the Individual Mandate of Affordable Care Act commonly referred to as “ObamaCare”, parents face a financial penalty for not providing insurance coverage for minor children that do not qualify for one of the many exemptions.
Maintaining Health Insurance Coverage for a Child
Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 50-13.11 and the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, the court must order either parent to obtain and maintain health insurance coverage for a child if it is actually and currently available to the parents at a reasonable cost.
If insurance coverage is not available at a reasonable cost, the court must enter an order requiring the parent to obtain and maintain health insurance for a child if and when that parent gains access to reasonably-priced health insurance for the child. The court has specified that health insurance is considered “reasonable in cost” if it is available through a parent’s employment or other group health insurance.
In some Consent Orders for Child Support, the parents conduct an annual assessment of insurance options to select the best plan for the children such that responsibility for coverage could transfer between parents over time. It is also possible for the cost of coverage to be shared by the parents.
The parent ordered to provide health insurance for a child receives a credit for the cost of coverage when child support is calculated pursuant to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. If a parent fails to maintain health insurance coverage for a child when ordered by the court, statute sets forth that the parent is liable for any health, hospital, or other medical expenses incurred which would have been covered by insurance if it had been in effect. It is therefore imperative that a parent responsible for maintaining health insurance coverage for a child do so, as they bear total financial responsibility for all medical care that is not covered by insurance but would have been if the policy existed.
What About Uninsured Medical Expenses?
In addition to requiring a parent to provide medical, dental, and vision insurance — and giving credit in the Child Support calculation — the court may also specify how uninsured medical expenses are to be paid. Typically, the first $250 of uninsured medical expenses each calendar year are paid by the primary custodial parent, and all expenses above $250 can be paid by one parent or split between the parents in a number of different manners, such as pro-rata based upon the parent’s income.
If you have questions about your child’s medical, dental, or vision insurance coverage and how it may apply to child support, please call us today at (704) 810-1400 to schedule or learn more about a future consultation.