How Long Can Your Child Stay On Your Health Insurance?

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How Long Can Your Child Stay On Your Health Insurance?Learn how long parental medical coverage lasts and what your child needs to do once it’s done.

You may feel your child will never be old enough to go to prom or head off to college, let alone have their own health insurance. And no matter their age, we know you’d do anything to keep your child safe. But when it comes down to it, the United States government does place a limit on the medical protections you can offer your child — at least via your health insurance. So let’s dive into the details. 

How Long Can Your Child Stay On Your Insurance?

First things first: since not all insurance policies allow for dependents, it may be that your kids are already covered by their own plan. If that’s the case, then the info below probably isn’t for you! 

But for the rest of us, here are some things you and your child might want to think about:

  • Dependent Age: This is the magic number to keep in mind — a child can legally remain on their parent’s health insurance plan until their 26th birthday. After that, they can’t stay on your policy, so they’ll need to get their own coverage. (We know - that’s a rough birthday present from the US government!) 
  • Living Circumstances: Is your child off to college? Do they have their own place? Even if they’re a full-time student in another state, your kid can still be covered by your policy. In fact, if they permanently move to another state, they should still be covered. However, it never hurts to double-check with your insurance company.  
  • Marriage: Although marriage changes some things, it doesn’t affect health insurance — unless you or your child wants it to. If your kid catches the flu on their honeymoon, they can receive treatment under your plan.
  • Babies: Having a baby doesn’t disqualify your kids from coverage on your plan. In fact, some policies in certain states allow you to claim both child and grandchild as dependents.
  • Financial independence: Does your kid own a house? Great! Or do they barely have enough savings to buy a bus ticket? That’s okay, too! When it comes to health insurance, no amount of financial stability or instability will disqualify your child from coverage under your health plan. 

What the Affordable Care Act Says

In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changed the law when it came to aging out of a medical policy. As we mentioned above, it states that children can stay on a parental policy until the age of 26; as soon as they turn 26, they lose coverage. However, their birthday triggers a special enrollment period during which they can find new insurance. 

This is the way that the ACA ensures protection for your child. After all, what are the chances your kid is born exactly during Open Enrollment? The Special Enrollment Period provides your child with the time they need to find a new health plan, be that a plan through the Marketplace or a private healthcare. Though it is not required, healthcare in the United States is expensive and paying out of pocket can be financially ruinous, so we encourage you to help your child navigate this system.

Even with this provision, the ACA age cut-off can be brutal. While, at 26, your child can legally drink and vote, they are likely still adapting to life as an independent adult. Now is the time to give them the confidence to make important life decisions, like establishing a smart savings plan and learning what exactly an FSA is. This birthday might present a good opportunity to help begin that transition.   

Special Circumstances to Consider

Although most children are kicked off their parents’ plans at 26, there are times when protections can be extended. Some states, for example, allow disabled children to remain on their parent’s policy as dependents indefinitely. Note that this often only extends to disabled individuals not capable of sustaining employment.    

Another example: Only the state of Illinois offers protection to veterans. If your child served in any branch of the military and you live in Illinois, they’re eligible to remain on your policy until their 30th birthday.  

You can find a comprehensive list at the National Conference of State Legislators. It is important to remember that what constitutes a special circumstance varies state to state. This is not federal law, and policies change depending on where you are. If you have questions about how your child’s coverage could be affected, it is best to speak with your provider.

Prepare Your Child for the Transition

It’s stressful to choose a health policy for the first time. The US healthcare system is far from clear, and the whole process can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips that might help your child navigate all the bureaucracy: 

Tip #1: Don’t Wait!

It may be tempting for your child to put off researching health insurance plans, but this might result in a lapse in coverage—and that can lead to unfortunate consequences if they were to need health care.

Tip #2: Not All Health Insurance is the Same.

Your child may be unfamiliar with all the medical insurance jargon. Schools don’t tend to teach these terms like deductibles, HMOs, and copays. If you know those terms, you can step back into the role of teacher and walk them through it. If not, you and your child can brush up together. 

Tip #3: Get Coverage Based on Actual Need.

Once your child knows the terms, they can start to shop for the coverage that actually makes sense for their needs. 

Tip #4: Policy Comparison Matters.

Some policies may seem essentially identical, but each plan has unique benefits and services. An insurance comparison site can help your child gain the confidence they need to choose their own policy.

Navigate Insurance With Marble

Medical insurance is already so complicated, but you can make the process easier for your child by following some of the steps we outlined above. 

And when it comes to getting their first renters, auto, or pet policy, your child can shop for new policies, manage existing plans, and earn rewards when they create their Marble account. Get started today.