The Affordable Care Act has expanded the length of time parents can keep children on their health insurance policy. Effective January 1, 2014, adult children can stay on their parents' plan until the age of 26. This eligibility is the same whether the adult child is enrolled in college or not.
Age Is the Only Relevant Factor
Your college enrollment or lack thereof doesn't influence your eligibility to remain on your parent's health insurance plan. However, you must meet the age requirement to qualify. In accordance with the Affordable Care Act, adult children may be added or kept on a parent's health insurance plan until they reach 26 years of age. Prior to the enactment of the ACA, insurance companies were free to remove an adult child once he turned 19, although some companies made an exception for adult children attending college full-time.
Unlimited Coverage Arrives
Under the ACA, adult children who qualify to be on their parents' insurance plan cannot be excluded for other demographic or lifestyle reasons. This means adult children remain eligible for coverage even if they have the following characteristics: financially independent, married, enrolled in school, eligible for enrollment in employer's health insurance policy, or don't reside in parental home.
Enrolling on Your Parents' Plan
Your parents can enroll you on their health insurance plan during the open enrollment period or other specialized periods of enrollment for their particular insurance company. These periods differ among carriers, although late fall is a common time of year insurance companies hold enrollment. However, you're not required to accept coverage under your parents' plan. You are free to elect a different insurance policy, whether you purchase it on your own or receive it through your employer.
Parents' Policy Not a Good Option
Circumstances may arise in which choosing to stay or enroll in your parents' health insurance plan may not be a good option. For example, if you work or study abroad, the doctors and hospitals available to you are likely to be out-of-network providers, which means the cost of service would be significantly higher or not covered by your parents' policy at all. In this instance, you may wish to enroll in a policy in your current location or forego insurance until you return to the states. Another consideration arises if you plan to become pregnant while enrolled on your parent's plan. While most policies provide maternity care, it is often limited to the insured and her spouse, and doesn't include children of the insured. You may want to examine the services available to you under your parents' policy before making the decision to enroll.
- HealthCare.gov: Can Children Stay on a Parent's Plan Until Age 26?
- NPR: FAQ: A Young Adult's Guide To New Health Insurance Choices
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Coverage for Young Adults
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Young Adult Coverage
- Kaiser Health News: New Health Law's Protections For Adult Children Begins
Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.