What information can an employer require concerning my spouse’s health insurance?

My work has decided to charge a $50/month health insurance premium if my spouse works AND her work offers her health care. I question the legality of them being able to demand this information. I already pay extra for a package to have her covered.

Ann Kiernan replies:

This practice is legal, apparently, and it is becoming more and more popular with employers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and HR consulting firms. SHRM says that “spousal exclusion” or “working spouse” policies—generally take one of three forms:

  • Charging a premium surcharge for coverage through the employer’s plan if the spouse’s employer offers health insurance (which sounds like your case);
  • Requiring a spouse to purchase health insurance through the spouse’s employer’s plan before also purchasing it through the employer’s plan; or
  • Excluding a spouse from coverage altogether if similar coverage is available from the spouse’s employer. (That’s what UPS does.)

A recent survey by HR consulting firm Towers Watson found that about a third of employers use spousal insurance surcharges, a rate is predicted to rise to more than 60 percent in three years.

I wish I had better news for you, but thanks for the interesting question.

Posted 11-15-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.