Employee Benefits

Can You Have Two Health Insurances?

4 min read
Sep 20, 2023

The short answer to that question is yes, you can have two health insurance plans. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common for individuals to have more than one health insurance plan. While the majority of people in the U.S. are enrolled in one health plan for a calendar year, there’s a growing percentage of the population with multiple health policies.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2021, approximately 43.1 million people (13.1%) were covered by more than one type of health insurance — up from 12.6% in 2020.1 For the longer answer, and to learn why someone might want dual health coverage, read on.

Why would someone have more than one health insurance plan?

There are several scenarios in which someone may be covered by multiple health insurance plans, including:

  • An individual might supplement their private health insurance plan with a government program, such as Medicaid or Medicare.
  • A married person may have health insurance through their employer and be listed as a dependent under their spouse or partner’s health insurance.
  • A person under the age of 26 may have their own health insurance plan and remain a dependent on their parent’s plan.
  • A child of divorced parents may be listed as a dependent on both of their parent’s health insurance policies.

How do multiple health insurance policies work together?

Having two health insurance policies doesn’t mean you’ll be covered twice by both plans. For example, if you sprain your ankle and go to the doctor, your visit isn’t going to be reimbursed multiple times. Both plans may cover some of the expenses, but the combined benefits won’t surpass the total cost of your visit.

Due to a process called coordination of benefits (COB), one plan will be designated as your primary plan — or primary payer — while the other is your secondary plan. Your primary plan processes the insurance claim first and covers the bill up to its coverage limits. If your primary insurance is unable to cover the entire claim, your secondary insurance may cover all or a portion of the remaining costs. However, you may still be responsible for some cost sharing, such as copays or coinsurance.

Primary and secondary insurance rules

You don’t get to choose which plan is your primary and which is your secondary. COB sets the rules, based on the situation, to help dictate the order of coverage for each insurance plan. Rules may vary by state and insurance provider, but the following scenarios usually apply when determining primary and secondary responsibility.


Primary insurance

Secondary insurance

You have your own employer-sponsored health insurance, and you’re a dependent on your spouse or partner’s plan 

Your employer-sponsored plan 

Your spouse’s employer-sponsored plan 

You’re covered under Medicaid and have employer-sponsored health insurance 

Your employer-sponsored plan 


You’re covered under Medicare and have employer-sponsored health insurance 

Your employer (if the company 

employs 20 or more people); 

Medicare (if your employer 

has fewer than 20 employees)2


Medicare (if your employer 

employs 20 or more people); 

your employer (if they have 

fewer than 20 employees)2


You’re under 26 and have student or employer health coverage, and you’re a dependent on your parent’s plan 

Your student or employer plan 

Your parent’s plan 

Your children are covered 

under your health plan 

and your spouse or partner’s 

health plan 


Whichever parent has the 

earliest birthday in the 

calendar year 


Parent with the later birthday 

You’re separated or divorced, and your children are covered under both your plan and your former partner's plan 

Whichever parent has 

custody of the child — if 

custody is joint, follow the 

birthday rule 

The new legal spouse of the 

parent with custody or the 

parent without custody of the 


Pros and cons of having two health insurance plans

There are benefits and drawbacks to having two health insurance plans.


  • A secondary health insurance plan may be able to cover expenses that your primary plan doesn’t.
  • Your overall out-of-pocket costs may be reduced if the plans complement each other to help limit your individual responsibilities.
  • You may feel a greater sense of security if you were to suddenly become unemployed and lose one insurance plan.


  • You may have two separate premium and deductible responsibilities, which can add up over time and outweigh the benefits of having multiple insurance plans.
  • Even with two plans, your expenses may not be entirely covered, since the combined coverage can’t exceed 100% of your health costs.
  • The coordination of benefits process can make processing claims more complicated and time consuming.

Consult with your human resources team to learn more about having more than one insurance plan.

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1 “About 43 Million People in the U.S. Had Multiple Health Plans in 2021,” United States Census Bureau, 2023

2 “Is Medicare Primary or Secondary?” Medicare FAQ, 2023

This article is intended to provide general information about insurance. It does not describe any MetLife product or feature.