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How Old Can Your Dependent on Health Insurance Be? Posted: April 18th, 2010

By Joe Taylor Jr.

Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.

So-called "boomerang kids" may have expressed relief after President Obama signed new health care legislation that allows many adults to remain listed on their parents' health insurance until they reach the age of 26. For graduate students and working adults who do not qualify for employer-sponsored health coverage, the change in dependent policy eliminates the need to seek state-sponsored, free health insurance or to go without medical insurance.

The provision in the new health care law effectively supersedes advanced dependent coverage already offered in 24 states. However, a handful of states allow residents to extend health benefits to their dependent children up to age 30, or even beyond.

State Age Limit Restrictions
New Jersey 30 Unmarried, have no dependents, not eligible for Medicare or covered under other insurance, and NJ resident or full-time student. Must elect within 30 days of aging off policy or during open enrollment.
New York 29 Unmarried, not otherwise insured, not eligible for employer-sponsored coverage, and live in NY or the service area.
Iowa 25 or Full-Time Student Up to 25: Unmarried, IA resident.
Full-time student: Unmarried.
Florida 30 Unmarried, have no dependents, not covered under other insurance, and a FL resident or a full or part-time student.
Nebraska 30 Unmarried, resident of the state or a full-time student, and not covered under other insurance.
Ohio 28 Unmarried, resident of OH or a full-time student, and not eligible for employer sponsored coverage, Medicare or Medicaid.

[Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]

Iowa Dependent Health Insurance Covers Full-Time Students, Regardless of Age

Students in Iowa enjoy the most flexible health care insurance policies in the nation, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Under previous state regulations, unmarried dependents could remain on their parents' health insurance until age 25. Unmarried, full-time students in Iowa can enjoy parental health coverage no matter how old they are. The legislation was meant to encourage full-time graduate education, especially among rural farming families. Parents may also maintain coverage for adult dependents with disabilities.

Florida and New Jersey Grant Dependent Status Until Age 30

The Garden State offers one of the broadest definitions of dependent eligibility in the United States. If you and your parent both live in New Jersey and you have not yet turned 30, you can qualify as a dependent. However, you must not have any dependents of your own, ruling out residents who have had children or are married. Adult children covered under this state law can even be billed separately for their premiums, which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates cost between 60%-80% of the primary adult's monthly payment. Florida residents enjoy similar protections, but without the additional premium requirements.

New York Helps College Graduates Transition to Employer-Backed Insurance

New York State offers a broad definition of dependent, allowing children to ride on the coattails of their parents' health insurance until age 29. To maintaining eligibility dependents must not have access to employer-sponsored health care or to government backed, free health insurance programs. Many colleges and universities in New York sponsor inexpensive medical insurance and wellness programs for students. The current law acts as a safety net to allow for employment transitions after college.

Nebraska and Ohio Bring College Graduates Home with Parents' Health Care Plans

Both Nebraska and Ohio allow parents to keep their children covered under their health insurance plans, provided those dependents remain unmarried and live in the same state. Like New Jersey, Nebraska extends the dependent age limit to 30. Ohio caps its dependent age at 28. Both states allow advanced dependent coverage only if residents applying for coverage do not qualify for Medicaid.

Tracking Changes to Age Restrictions After New Health Care Plans Take Effect

Even though the new health care bill lifts age restrictions everywhere else in the country, organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation continue to gather data about the impact of dependent health care on families and in communities. Recent college graduates can benefit from the dependent rule changes, especially if they expect to remain out of the job market for a year or more.

Joe Taylor Jr.