F & F Helps Defeat MA. Bill to Marginalize Noncustodial Parents re: Their Kids Medical Issues


“Fathers & Families opposes any bill that would cut either parent out of the information loop concerning the occurrence, nature and costs of the child”s medical care.”–Fathers & Families Deputy Director Melissa Hodgdon

Fathers & Families opposed and testified against HB 930, a bill supported by the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association that would have further marginalized noncustodial parents in relation to their children’s medical needs

Board Chairman Ned Holstein, MD, MS and Deputy Director Melissa Hodgdon testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Financial Services in opposition to the Bill in February. We’re pleased to report that the Bill is now dead–good news for Massachusetts noncustodial parents.

Dr. Holstein, pictured above testifying, told the Committee:

Fathers & Families opposes HB 930 as written, but would support it if amended as indicated below.

Fathers & Families recognizes that it is important that children of divorced parents receive medical care without delays or disruptions due to uncertainties about health insurance coverage. We support all reasonable measures to accomplish this goal. Thus, both parents should be provided all necessary information and documentation regarding the child”s health insurance coverage and health care.

To that end, we support the first provision of HB 930, which would require the insurance carrier to provide custodial parents with documents, such as an insurance card, indicating that children are covered by any policy held by the non-custodial parent. The bill should be amended to include a provision that if the custodial parent is the policyholder, the non-custodial parent should likewise receive documents that would allow him to obtain care for the child should the need arise during periods when the child is with him. It might also be useful to specify that both parents receive the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from the carrier, since there is often a court order to split the unreimbursed co-payments, deductibles and other charges.

However, in regard to the second and third points of this bill, we ask that they be stricken for several reasons. After speaking with several physicians, and as a physician myself, I have found that the last two points of the bill are meant to correct a problem that is extremely rare, if not non-existent, but which could create new problems of their own.

The second provision of HB 930 is unnecessary because it is already the case that if a parent produces evidence of the child”s coverage, the provider will submit claims for payment for covered services without the need to seek the approval of the policyholder.

The third provision is also unnecessary because the provider can always submit the claim for payment (“assignment of benefits’) and receive the payment from the carrier without the approval of the policyholder.

Hodgdon told the Committee:

Fathers & Families opposes any bill that would cut either parent out of the information loop concerning the occurrence, nature and costs of the child”s medical care. Each parent has an interest in knowing medical information about the child, and each parent serves as a check upon unwise medical decisions that the other might make. It is not unusual for our members to learn about inappropriate or unnecessary medical care of their child only through the EOB. If the non-custodial parent is taken out of the information loop, it can become just one more way in which an unscrupulous custodial parent can marginalize the non-custodial parent. Finally, each parent needs information such as the EOB in order to carry out court orders for sharing the unreimbursed costs.

Cutting one parent out of the information loop also sends the message that parents do not have to work together and communicate with each other when making health care decisions for their children. Children benefit from having both parents involved in their life. If there is less and less reason for parents to work together to raise their children, one parent, most often the non-custodial parent, will become marginalized and the children will suffer.

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