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Keeping adult children on your health insurance plan Posted: February 17th, 2012

By Barbara Marquand

An additional 2.5 million young adults have health insurance coverage, thanks to a provision in the federal health care reform law that lets them stay on their parents' insurance plans, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The policy took effect in September 2010, six months after Congress passed the massive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Before then, health insurance companies in some states could remove adult children from their parents' health plans, usually when they turned 19. Now, young adults can stay on their parents' plans until age 26.

If you're a parent wanting coverage for your grown children, here are four key facts to know:

1. Married or unmarried, it doesn't matter

Even if your children are married, live elsewhere and are financially independent, you can still keep them on your health plan if they're under age 26. However, if your child is married, the health plan would not be required to cover your son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

2. Grandkids aren't necessarily covered

Even if your children are eligible for coverage on your health plan, don't count on being able to cover their children. Group health plans vary, but most don't extend dependent coverage to grandchildren, unless you are their legal guardians.

3. The rule applies to medical insurance plans that cover dependents

Some employer-based plans provide health insurance coverage only to employees; they don't extend coverage to dependents. If that's the case, you can't put your children on the plan, regardless of their ages.

4. Some health plans can refuse to cover young-adult children

All health plans created after March 23, 2010, that include coverage for dependents must allow young adults on their parents' plans, even if the children have access to health insurance through their own jobs. However, plans that were around before that date can exclude children who can purchase health insurance from their own employers. That exception will end in 2014.

5. It's important to compare health insurance quotes

Keeping your young-adult children on your health insurance plan is an easy way to ensure they have coverage. But it might not be the least expensive option. In most cases, you'll pay the premium for your children to get coverage through your employer.

If your child is healthy, he or she might qualify for less expensive coverage through an individual health insurance plan. Get quotes for individual health insurance plans and compare the cost to what you would pay to keep your kids on your health plan.

Finally, check your company's health plan and dependent eligibility policies to understand all the rules and enrollment dates.