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Children Covered by Parents’ Health Insurance Plans

This article was written by in Insurance. 8 comments.


A Consumerism Commentary reader wrote in with the following question:

I called our health insurance company about adding our sons back on our policy and they said they still had to be in school for 12 credit hours. Is this true? They said the new law did not effect them yet. Any answers for this would be great.

It likely is true. Some provisions of the health insurance reform law haven’t taken effect yet. However, a relevant piece of the legislation takes effect September 23, six months after the bill was signed into law. This provision declares that children can be included on parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 26. The reader did not specify the age of the sons, but if they fall into the allowed range, the number of credit hours enrolled in college is irrelevant.

This is good news for many graduates who have finished their education but have been unable to find a job offering benefits. The bottom line for this reader is that later this week, her sons enrolled in less than 12 credit hours will be eligible to be added to her own health insurance plans as long as they are under the age of 26.

The above only applies for insurance coverage that began after the law was enacted in March. Plans that were in existence at that time are grandfathered, and not subject to the new rules yet. If children under the age of 26 do not have access to other employer-based insurance plans, they can be added to parents’ plans to be effective January 1, 2011; the restriction is lifted so this feature is available to all children under the age of 26 on January 1, 2014.

Got any questions? Contact me, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll research it.

Published or updated September 20, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Lsails2

The Sept 23rd date does not apply to all plans. If a plan is “grandfathered” (was in effect at the time the bill was passed), it has to meet the “dependents to age 26″ provision on the date of the new plan year following Sept 23, 2010. So, if your plan year is the calendar year, your plan is not required to allow dependents to age 26 until 1/1/2011. This is the case with the plan offered by our company. As with most federal laws, there are exceptions, caveats and exceptions to the caveats……

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,372 (Platinum)

Thanks for filling in some of the information I missed!

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avatar ChrisC

I graduated college in May 2010, its a tough job market out there. I’m 22 and still under my dad health insurance plan. As soon as I am able to obtain a career, I will need to be on his health insurance plan. His union local 608 said this law is only for government and state workers, my question is that true?

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avatar Derringer777

This is one of the more costly changes to the healthcare system, by the way. I have seen estimates that this provision alone will result in increases to most plan participants next year. Expect a hefty increase in the amount you pay for healthcare as a result of this one. Meanwhile, evaluate whether you think adults at 26 years of age should be covered under mommy and daddy’s healthcare, even if they are married, even if they are pregnant, etc. I, for one, am really disheartened by this provision of the new healthcare plan, and am really disheartened by what is coming in terms of increases in employee copays as a result. The really bad thing is most people I have talked to don’t even agree that this part of the bill should have been included, nor do most have any idea of what the costs of this are about to be coming out of next year’s paycheck…

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avatar James

Derringer77, you don’t know what you are talking about. Now in one sense adding an adult child to one’s health insurance is of course going to increase the amount one pays for a policy. Generally speaking the cost of buying three of something is almost always higher than the cost of buying two of something. Try it. Go buy three cars and compare it to the cost of buying two. However, the average premium cost per person should be positively affected by this change. Why? Because on average 25 year olds are healthier than are their parents. So as more people in their early twenties are covered, the risks to the insurance companies decreases as a result of expanding the risk pool with, on average, healthier individuals. As to whether it is a bad thing to allow for quasi-moral reasons. How could it possibly be? In an economy where upwards of 50 million people are unable to afford insurance for themselves this is pretty clearly a step in the right direction. Do you really object to the idea of parents continuing to pay the health insurance costs of their children past the age of 18?

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avatar Christi

Why would you not want to protect your kids health and future. For those that do not agree with this new bill is just plain selfish. On my daughters 19th birthday she ended up in the hospital and had her appendix removed, a year later she went into the hospital again because of a cyst on her ovary. My son shortly after he turned 19 he went into the hospital 4 times, 1 week was in ICU, with in that 6 months he was given 13 units of blood, 2 squad rides, and 2 surgeries. his hospital bill was over $500,000. These are 2 kids that are never sick, and havn’t been since. without them being on our insurance both these kids would have started off their adult life in extreme debt. Is that really what you want for your kids, all to save yourself a buck. Me personally I will pay a little higher premium to ensure and protect my kids future.

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avatar Holly

I don’t get this…what’s the difference between this new law and signing up your adult child under COBRA benefits?

Say you have a 24 y/o daughter who is pregnant and currently does not have employer-sponsored access to health insurance (so really should not be w/out insurance)…wouldn’t you be able to insure her under COBRA? Is the difference just that the cost would be much lower?

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avatar Tim Harris

Here’s the scenario.
1. My son is 22 and is in school. (11 credit hours currently)
2. He was added back to my policy at my previous job under the new law.
3. He is on my new policy at my new company.

Should he be covered regardless of credit hours?

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