Are Stepchildren Dependants for Health Insurance Reasons?

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Health insurance is important for young adults. It covers hospital and doctor bills when you are sick and pays for preventive and maternity care. Unless you have a job where the employer pays most of the cost, an insurance premium may be tough to squeeze into your budget. Your stepmom or stepdad may be able to put you on the family policy, cutting your costs.


Stepchildren meet the definition of dependents. However your stepparent's insurance policy may not cover dependents. Nothing requires insurers to provide coverage to dependents. Rather, people negotiate dependent coverage with private insurers or with employer benefit departments through unions or work groups.


If dependent coverage is included in your stepparent's policy, it applies to stepchildren who meet specific criteria. For example, a stepchild is a spouse's natural or adopted child. A spouse's stepchild by a previous marriage is not a stepchild for insurance purposes nor is the child of a previous spouse considered a stepchild unless she continues to live in the home of the stepparent. For example, suppose Paul and Sue marry. Sue has two natural children, Bill and Rose, and two stepchildren, Ann and Margaret, from a previous marriage. Bill and Rose are Paul's stepchildren; Ann and Margaret are not. If Sue dies, Bill and Rose cease to be considered Paul's stepchildren unless they still live with him.

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act has extended the length of time stepchildren can be considered dependents. For example, if insurers provide dependent coverage, they must allow parents to put and keep stepchildren under age 25 on their policies even if the stepchildren don't live with the parents or attend school. This applies to individual policies bought on the Health Care Marketplace as well as employer plans created after March 23, 2010. It even applies if a stepchild marries or has a full-time job. The law does not require that a parent's insurance company cover a stepchild's spouse or children, however.

State Laws

Some states allow stepchildren to remain dependents for health care purposes for longer than required under the ACA. For example, Florida allows unmarried and childless stepchildren to remain as dependents on their stepparents' policies until age 30. Illinois allows veterans to remain dependents until age 30.