Health insurance plays a vital role in protecting you and your family members in times of medical need, so knowing which loved ones your health plan covers and how to add dependents to your policy is essential.
Who can I add to my health insurance?
In healthcare, a dependent refers to anyone who’s eligible to be added to a health insurance plan, granting them access to the same or similar benefits as the policyholder. Deciding who qualifies as a dependent and what benefits they’re entitled to will depend on your insurance provider and the terms of the policy.
Eligibility may vary, but typically, dependents will include:
- Spouse: Your current spouse is often eligible to be added as a dependent on your health insurance. Usually, this won’t include ex-spouses.1 Once a marriage is legally ended through divorce, the ex-spouse is no longer considered a member of your household or a dependent on your policy.
- Children: Biological children, adoptive children, stepchildren and foster children are all normally considered dependents, as long as they meet age and other eligibility criteria. Generally speaking, insurance coverage for dependent children extends until they reach the age of 26, or until they no longer financially depend on you.1
- Domestic partner: Certain health insurance policies provide coverage for domestic partners or same-sex partners, acknowledging them as eligible dependents.
Exceptions may exist regarding the above. Consult with your provider or employer to learn how adding a dependent works for your specific situation.
Can I add my parents to my health insurance?
In most instances, you won’t be allowed to add your parents to your health insurance. Typically, health plans consider spouses and children as dependents, but parents aren’t usually eligible for dependent coverage. However, some situations may allow you to add your parents as dependents on your health insurance, for instance:
- Legal guardianship: If you have legal guardianship of your parents due to incapacitation or other reasons, some providers may allow you to add them to your health insurance policy as dependents.
- Extenuating circumstances: If your parents have special needs or disabilities that make them rely on you for financial or medical support, certain health plans might consider your parents as eligible dependents.
Can I add my sister or brother to my health insurance?
You ordinarily won't be able to claim your siblings as dependents on your health insurance policy. However, there might be exceptions, such as:
- Legal guardianship: If your sibling is a minor and/or you have legal guardianship of them due to family circumstances, you may be able to add them to your health insurance.
- Extenuating circumstances: If your sibling has a medical condition or other extenuating circumstance that renders them financially or medically reliant on you, some insurance providers may let you add them to your policy.
Can I add non-family members to my health insurance?
Adding non-family members to your health insurance isn’t a standard practice. Health insurance plans typically prioritize coverage for family members. However, in addition to domestic partnerships, other situations like the following may allow you to include non-family members on your health insurance policy.
- Civil unions: Certain states may recognize civil unions as a legal relationship, permitting partners in these unions to be added as dependents on health insurance plans.
- Unique circumstances: In some situations, insurance providers might make special exceptions for compelling and well-documented circumstances. These are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if you have legal guardianship of a non-family member your provider might consider them an eligible dependent.
Who can I add to my supplemental health insurance?
In addition to traditional health insurance, you may have supplemental health insurance, which can provide you with payment if you’re injured in an accident, spend time in the hospital, or become critically ill. Supplemental health insurance coverage can extend to dependents, too. Who qualifies as a dependent will depend on the insurance provider but may include your spouse or partner and your children.
Claiming dependents on health insurance during open enrollment
You can add a dependent to your health insurance plan during open enrollment. Open enrollment for government-sponsored insurance plans is typically held between November and January. Employers usually offer a similar open enrollment period, with many occurring during October and November.
Keep in mind that certain employer-sponsored health insurance plans may offer greater flexibility when it comes to adding parents, siblings or non-family members to your policy. Consult with your employer's human resources (HR) department to learn about available options.
Special enrollment periods
You may also add dependents outside of the traditional open enrollment window if you experience a qualifying life event (QLE). A QLE is a significant life-changing circumstance, either planned or unplanned, that has an impact on your insurance coverage. QLEs can include events like marriage, divorce, birth or adoption.
There is typically a limited time frame, often 30 to 60 days, during which you can make updates or changes to your insurance if you experience a QLE. Therefore, it’s important to contact your employer or insurance provider as soon as possible after a QLE occurs.