How Long Can You Keep Your Child on Your Medical Benefits?

It is now possible to insure your adult child.

Portrait of a young adult man image by DNF-Style from

In the past, insurance companies would typically drop your child from your health plan once she turned age 19. Some plans allowed policyholders to insure a child until a later age if the child was enrolled in a post secondary school as a full-time student. Now, thanks to the federal Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, you can add or keep a young adult child on your coverage until she turns age 26 as long as your health plan covers children.

Purpose of the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act provides young adults who might not otherwise have health insurance access to coverage. Statistics published in a White House fact sheet show that about 30 percent of the nation’s young adults are uninsured. In fact, the rate of uninsured among young adults is higher than in other age groups. Unfortunately, this same demographic has the lowest rate of access to employer-sponsored group plans. Under the Affordable Care Act, heath coverage is available to adult children until they reach the age of 26. The exception until 2014 are employer group plans that don’t normally provide coverage for family members.

Plan Benefits

If your health plan offers coverage for family members, you can insure your child, even if he is not living with you or is married. You do not have to be supporting your child or claim him as a dependent on your federal tax return for him to qualify for coverage under your plan. Nor does he have to be attending school. In the event your child is employed, but isn’t eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored health plan of his own, you can cover him on your plan. After 2014, your child may elect to remain on your health plan until he turns age 26, even if he is eligible to enroll in his own employer plan.

Provisions of the Law

According to the law, an insurance company cannot charge you a higher premium for insuring an older child. Although a company can raise its insurance premiums overall to cover the cost of insuring adult children, it cannot charge you more than it would for insuring a younger child. In order to extend plan coverage to older children, insurers in general must increase the premiums families pay for dependent coverage. These provisions under the Affordable Care Act apply in all states.

Rejoining a Plan

Adult children younger than 26 can re-enroll in a parent’s plan even after coverage is ended. If your child has health insurance of her own and loses it, she can get insured again on your plan as long as your plan offers family coverage. Actually, your child can go on and off your plan more than once if she wants. However, there are some exceptions to getting on a parent’s plan. Your child can’t get coverage once you retire and are on Medicare which doesn’t cover dependents. Other employer insurance plans for retirees may not cover adult children either.