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Romney Files Bill to Promote Parental Responsibility

Location: Boston, MA


Requires non-custodial parents to contribute to dependents' health costs

Governor Mitt Romney today proposed legislation that would require non-custodial parents whose children receive MassHealth to contribute to the cost of that care. The change would affect 30,000 dependents of 18,000 non-custodial parents for a savings of $6 million annually.

Federal law requires the non-custodial parent - typically fathers - to provide health insurance for a child only if the parent's employer offers health insurance. If the employer doesn't offer insurance, the non-custodial parent is off the hook.

"This is an important reform that sends the right message to parents," said Romney. "If you are a father who has the financial means, our expectation is that you will either help to provide health insurance for your children or make a reasonable contribution toward the cost of that care."

To facilitate cost recovery, the bill filed by the Governor would direct the Department of Revenue (DOR) to collect up to five percent of a non-custodial parent's gross income to reimburse MassHealth. The legislation allows DOR to promulgate regulations to exempt non-custodial parents with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The cash contribution would not exceed $262 per month, the average cost of a child on MassHealth Standard.

The collection of non-custodial parent contributions would occur through the garnishing of wages via the employer, similar to the current process for child support.

"This is the next logical step in trying to get non-custodial parents to take responsibility for their children's health care," said DOR Commissioner Alan LeBovidge. "We have been very successful in past years in shifting non-custodial parents to add their children to their employers' health plan."

Since 2003, Massachusetts has realized more than $200 million in cost savings by enrolling children who receive MassHealth in the non-custodial parent's private health insurance. The proposed legislation will save taxpayers another $6 million annually.

"It is essential that non-custodial parents play a role in providing health coverage for their children if they have the means to do so," said state Medicaid Director Beth Waldman.

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