Is a spouse required to add his wife to his company’s health insurance?

There is no law requiring a spouse to add his wife to his company’s health insurance plan. However, while the law does not require a husband to cover his wife under his employer’s health plan, it may require an ex-husband to pay for his ex-wife’s and children’s health insurance or health care. Read our free legal guide or consult with a local attorney below to learn more.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 21, 2020

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There is no law requiring that employees add their families (including spouses) to employer-provided health insurance. Therefore, while you are married, he does not need to provide you with insurance coverage.

A common mistake (certainly understandable) is to confuse what is right with what is legal. Right would be, of course, to cover a spouse under the employed spouse’s health insurance (assuming he or she does not have his or her own insurance, that is). But legally, that is not required: there is no law requiring that spouses (or, for that matter, children) be covered under someone’s health insurance. Each employee can decide for him- or herself– what health coverage to get from work: the employee could elect to get no coverage, for example, and have no health insurance; or if he or she gets coverage, the employee can decide whether to get single person coverage, coverage for a married couple, or full family coverage. (Subject, that is, to what policies or options are available under the employer’s health plan.) Thus, while the spouses are married to each other, the employed spouse does not need to add his spouse to the company’s health insurance.

The words –“While the spouses are married”– are emphasized in the preceding paragraph because this could change in a divorce: should the spouses divorce, the court could order Spouse A to provide or pay for health insurance for Spouse B, the same way the family court could order that Spouse A play spousal support (commonly known as “alimony”) to Spouse B, or could order a certain distribution of assets, such that Spouse B gets the house (and the court could even order that not only does B get the house, but that Spouse A has to pay the mortgage on it). That is, because for various historical, cultural, and policy reasons, the law does not interfere in the internal workings of an ongoing marriage; the spouses are free to come to any arrangement or structure they like, and “share and share alike” is no more legally correct than one spouse completely controlling the finances, travel, and activities of the other spouse. In the law’s eyes, however the spouses live is acceptable, so long as they are not actually committing crimes.

But when a marriage ends, then the law may step in to ensure that fairness is done and that the more vulnerable (e.g., the nonworking) spouse is protected. So, while the law does not require a husband, for example, to cover his wife under his employer’s health plan, it may require an ex-husband to pay for his ex-wife’s health insurance or health care. This is a factor to consider, if the uncovered spouse feels like the marriage is not fair or equitable to him or her: he or she may do much better in a divorce, after the courts get involved, then how he or she is doing while still married. This is something that a spouse dissatisfied with his or her marriage—including with the economic protection afforded him or her—may wish to discuss with a family or matrimonial law attorney.

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