Can I Cover Siblings Under My Insurance Plan?

An employer provided insurance plan is a great way to provide health benefits for yourself, your spouse and your dependents. Family insurance coverage allows you to make sure those for which you are responsible are covered in the event they need medical services. If a child can be claimed on your income tax return as a dependent, that child can be also be included as a dependent for health insurance coverage. The Internal Revenue Service defines a dependent as a qualifying child or qualifying relative.

Qualifying Child

According to the IRS, a child must meet certain criteria to be considered a qualifying child. The child must be your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling, stepsibling or any of their biological children. The child must be under age 19 at the end of the year, or under age 24 at the end of the year if the child is a student. The child also must be younger than the taxpayer. If the child is permanently disabled, the age restriction does not apply. The child must have lived with the taxpayer for at least half of the year. The child must not have provided more than half of her own support for the year. Incidentally, the child does not file a joint tax return.

Qualifying Relative

According to the IRS, a relative must meet certain criteria to be considered a qualifying relative. The relative must not be claimed as a qualifying child by someone else. The relative must live with the taxpayer the entire year or be a relative who is not required to live with the taxpayer, which, depending on the circumstances, can include your biological or adopted child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half sibling or any of their biological children; your stepsibling or stepparent; or your parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle. The relative’s gross income must be less than $3,800 per year. The taxpayer must provide more than half of the relative’s support during the year.

Changes Under Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, expands the age for which children can be covered under a parent’s health insurance plan. Young adults can now be covered under their parents' insurance plans through the end of the year in which they turn age 26. This coverage is extended even if the child is no longer a student, no longer living with her parents and regardless of marital and employment status. This new eligibility is granted simply by the child's age and her relationship as the child of an insured parent. "Child" refers to the insured’s biological or adopted child, stepchild or qualifying foster child.

Coverage for Siblings

There are limited situations in which a sibling can be covered under an insured’s health plan. A sibling can be covered under an employer-sponsored health insurance plan if the sibling qualifies as a dependent by being the qualifying child or qualifying relative of an insured worker, using the criteria in the IRS guidelines. The tax information provided was current for the 2012 tax year. Further information on dependent requirements can be found on the IRS website

About the Author

Dawn Aldridge has worked in accounting and business since 2004. Her diverse experience includes public, small business and government accounting, as well as logistics and inventory management. She holds an MBA from the University of Illinois at Springfield.