Insuring Mom: Can You Put Your Parents on Your Insurance?
- Adult children of elderly parents may wonder: Can you put your parents on your insurance? Learn how to get comprehensive healthcare coverage for your parents.
Parents often keep their children on their health insurance plans until they’re well into their 20s and can reliably maintain their own coverage. But as children grow up and parents age, some kids begin to question: Can you put your parents on your insurance? The answer to the question depends on the company that provides your insurance.
When Can You Put Your Parents on Your Insurance?
Some health insurance companies let you put your parents on your policy if they’re your legal tax dependents and if any other specified dependency guidelines are met. The rules for covering dependent parents may vary depending on what type of insurance you maintain and where it was purchased.
If you’re covered through private insurance, your carrier may let you include adult relatives on your policy if they’re your legal tax dependents. Depending on the insurer, additional dependency requirements may also apply. For example, some carriers might require proof that you’re providing regular financial assistance to your parent or that one or both parents are currently residing with you. To find out if your plan offers the option to cover adult dependents other than your spouse, plus any additional guidelines that apply, contact your insurance agent or a representative from the carrier.
If you purchase your insurance through the HealthCare.gov, your parents can be considered part of your household if you declare them as legal tax dependents. If your state of residence maintains its own health care marketplace, refer to the guidelines set by your state to see if there's a provision for adding a parent to your plan.
States that maintain their own health care marketplaces include:
- New York
- Rhode Island
The District of Columbia also maintains its own health care marketplace.
Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance
Guidelines set by employer-sponsored health insurance may vary widely by carrier and plan. If you receive health care coverage through your employer, reach out to your human resources department or contact a representative from the insurance company to find out what options are available for adding parents to your policy.
If you’re in the military, you probably have coverage through TRICARE, which provides health insurance for U.S. service members and their families. If your parents are your dependents and you’re on active duty for 30 days or longer, they may receive medical care at a military clinic or hospital. Your parents may also be eligible to enroll in TRICARE Plus, which provides primary care services through certain military clinics or hospitals. TRICARE also provides coverage for your spouse’s dependent parents under the same guidelines.
How Can You Claim Your Parents as Legal Tax Dependents?
If your health plan offers a provision that lets you put your parents on your insurance, you’ll probably have to claim them as dependents first. That’s typically done by declaring them as legal dependents when you file your federal income tax return.
To declare one or both of your parents as tax dependents, you and/or your parent(s) must meet the following conditions:
- You can’t be the dependent of anybody else, whether they formally claim you or not.
- Your parents can’t file a joint tax return (unless they’re filing that way specifically to get a refund).
- Your parent must be a U.S. citizen, resident or national or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
- Your parent must have a taxable income of $4,300 or less for the year.
- You must have provided more than half of their financial support, when considering food stamps, housing and other government assistance.
Are There Other Options for Getting Health Insurance for Aging Parents?
If your health insurance policy doesn’t let you provide coverage for dependent parents or your parents won’t qualify as taxable dependents, there are several other ways to get medical coverage for them:
If your parent is over 65, has a disability or has been diagnosed with end stage renal disease, they may qualify for health insurance coverage through Medicare. This federally managed program is divided into three parts:
- Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facilities, home health care and hospice.
- Part B covers preventative and medically necessary services such as diagnostic imaging and treatments for illnesses and injuries. It may also cover ambulance transportation and durable medical equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs.
- Part D covers prescription medications.
Individuals who are eligible for Medicare coverage may also opt for a Medicare Advantage plan. Although these plans are governed by the same federal guidelines as Medicare, coverage is provided by Medicare-approved private insurers. Also known as Medicare Part C, Advantage plans provide an all-in-one alternative to Original Medicare. Part C may also offer additional benefits such as hearing, vision and dental coverage.
Medicaid provides comprehensive, no-cost health insurance to low-income adults. Because this program is run jointly by federal and state governments, eligibility requirements vary by state of residence. Although Medicaid sets strict income limits to qualify for the program, many states maintain a medically needy program, which helps applicants with significant health needs obtain coverage even if they don’t qualify financially. Medicaid questions should be directed to your state’s individual Medicaid Agency, which can help you understand the program's complex eligibility requirements and begin the application process.
The Health Insurance Marketplace
The health insurance marketplace offers medical insurance to U.S. citizens or nationals who reside in the United States and who don’t have Medicare coverage. Plans may be purchased during the designated enrollment period, which typically runs through November and December, and individuals who meet certain income requirements may be eligible for government subsidies to help pay for policies.
Private Health Insurance Plans
Individual policies may also be purchased directly from private health insurance companies. If your parents aren't likely to qualify for a marketplace subsidy, private health insurance may be a good choice for coverage. If your parent can't afford a traditional plan, many private plans offer affordable alternatives such as high-deductible plans. A licensed agent or broker can help you find a plan that suits your parents’ needs and fits in your budget.
If your parents have medical needs and you’re unable to find suitable insurance, guidance is available through resources such as your local Area Agency on Aging. These agencies offer free over-the-phone or in-person counseling services to older Americans in need of health insurance.