When you’re buying health insurance you’ll likely need to sign up your family, too. Known in tax lingo as a dependent, here’s who qualifies and how they can help you save.
Anyone you claim on your income tax return for a given tax year is considered a dependent. Generally dependents are your spouse or domestic partner and/or any kids under 26 years old. A child can be biological, legally adopted, or a stepchild. Otherwise, who you can claim as a dependent varies by state:
- California: Temporary custody is not sufficient to claim someone as a dependent.
- New Jersey: Foster children, children of your civil-union or domestic partner, children under court-appointed guardianship, any other children with whom you have legal or blood relationship, if they mainly depend on you, can be claimed as dependents.
- New York: Proposed adoptive children, even those who aren’t financially dependent on/don’t live with you, children under court-appointed legal guardianship if they depend mostly on you, children of your domestic partner can all be claimed as dependents.
- Texas: Foster children, a biological grandchild who is dependent on you, a child who lives primarily with you and relies on you for more than one-half of his or her support (you can be his legal guardian or related by blood or marriage) can all be claimed as dependents.
Other relatives for whom you are financially responsible may also count as dependents, such as your parents or siblings. Roommates, divorced or legally separated spouses, and unborn children are not considered dependents. For more information, see the full definition of dependents from the IRS.
Why do dependents matter?
Who you claim as a dependent is important because the size of your tax household is one way the government determines whether you qualify for financial assistance for your health plan, regardless of who in your household needs health insurance coverage. The more people in your family, the more likely you are to get some financial assistance.
Dependents can also be included on your employer’s insurance or your individual health insurance plan, including plans sold in the health care marketplace. However you cannot include a dependent on your health plan if he/she is on Medicare.
When can I enroll a dependent on my health insurance?
You can enroll your dependents on your health plan during Open Enrollment. If you have a special qualifying life event—such as the birth of a child or losing your job, or moving into a new coverage area—you can enroll them during Special Enrollment.
How long can I keep my child on my plan as a dependent?
For the most part, your kids can stay on your plan until the age of 26, even if they:
- Get married.
- Have a baby or adopt a child.
- Go to or leave school.
Your children can also usually stay on your plan even if:
- You don’t claim them as tax dependents.
- You don’t live together.
- They are offered health insurance by their employer.