Do You Have to Be Married to Share Health Insurance?

Joining your partner's health insurance plan could save you money.

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At one time, couples married before moving in together. As society became more progressive, however, it was no longer necessary to say “I do” before sharing a home or even having children. In fact, an analysis of census data found that 18 million adults were living with an unmarried partner in 2016. That number is 29 percent higher than in 2007, when only 14 million were living together without legal paperwork. That being said, splitting a monthly mortgage payment isn’t the only benefit of living with a romantic partner. You may be able to share a health insurance plan.


Shared health insurance plans may be unavailable to unmarried domestic partners, although specific eligibility is determined by employers and government policy alike.

Insurance Through Your Employer

Until recently, domestic partners had a tough time trying to convince an employer to let them add a loved one to their health insurance. This often wasn’t even entirely the business’ fault. Health insurance plans were set up to allow only spouses and children. But an increasing number of corporations have begun allowing employees to add domestic partners, along with some state and city governments. Even in cases where domestic partners aren’t allowed on health plans, employers occasionally agree to add these parties to the business’ plan, as long as the employee is willing to pay the full amount of the premiums for the nonspouse.

Don’t expect your employer to add your domestic partner without questions. Understandably, businesses and insurers want to make sure people aren’t simply adding roommates and friends. The Human Rights Campaign recommends employers request proof of the relationship that can include municipal domestic partnership registration, a state civil union license, a marriage license from another country or other proof. If employees are reluctant to secure government paperwork, the employer can create its own partnership affidavit for the worker to sign.

The 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage has complicated matters, however, since requiring proof of marriage no longer eliminates same-sex couples who wouldn’t have previously been able to marry. One study found that in 2016, 48 percent of employers were providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners, down 11 percent from 2014.

On the Health Exchange

If you’re among the nine million Americans on the federal health exchange, you’ll likely be concerned about its views on domestic partners. When signing up for coverage, you’ll be asked who is in your household. You’re only supposed to include a domestic partner in this if you share a child together or if you plan to claim this person as a tax dependent.

It’s important to note that this is set up to steer you toward the best plan for your situation, not to make things more difficult for you. To include someone in your family plan, they’ll need to show that they are dependent on you financially. Otherwise, your domestic partner may be better off simply signing up for the exchange separately.

Other Important Considerations

Just because you can add a domestic partner to your health insurance, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for you. If your partner works, their employer may provide benefits that are better, whether or not their employer will allow you to be added. It’s important to price each option before automatically adding your loved one to your insurance.

It’s also important to note that if you lose your job, your domestic partner will lose benefits, as well. COBRA, which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, only covers you for a designated period of time after you leave your employer. However, this would be the case if you were married, as well.

You should also know there are tax repercussions for having your domestic partner on your health plan. Instead of being filed under pretax income, the premium your employer pays on your domestic partner will be considered taxable income. This wouldn’t be the case if you opted to slide a wedding ring on your finger.