Adding a parent to your health insurance is not as simple as it sounds. Ideally, we would be able to add whomever we want to our plans, but unfortunately, that’s not how our health insurance system works. Under the Affordable Care Act, it is mandated that children have the option to remain on their parent's insurance until they reach 26 years of age. Parents, on the other hand, are not offered the same protection. If you are trying to add your mother to your health insurance policy, there are a few things you need to know first.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Only a small number of insurers allow consumers to add their parents to their health insurance policies.
Look at Your Plan
Before adding your mother to your health insurance plan, it’s best to do a little research. Read through the ins and outs of your policy. Your insurer will explicitly outline who qualifies as a dependent. Most insurance companies allow two types of dependents: children and spouses. Even if you claim your mother as a dependent on your taxes, that doesn’t mean your insurance company has to accept her as a dependent on your policy.
Insurers are not mandated to include parents, and due to high costs, most refuse to do so. A small minority of insurance companies do allow parents to be added to plans. The VA, for example, will permit you to add a parent to your health plan as long as the parent meets the proper income qualifications.
Adding a Parent to Your Policy
If your health insurer allows parents as dependents, you’re in luck. You can move forward with adding your mother to your policy. First, make sure you meet all of the dependency requirements. This usually means that your mother is living with you and that you’re providing financially for her, although requirements may vary from company to company. This is a great time to talk with your provider to discuss your options.
If your mother is eligible under your policy, contact your insurer to add her as a dependent. In most cases, this should be done during open enrollment, the time period when you are eligible to make changes to your plan. Open enrollment runs nationally from November 1 through December 15, although some states extend it for a longer period.
If you’re not able to add your mother to your current insurance plan, you still have a few options. The marketplace allows you to switch health insurance as your needs change. Plans that accept parents as dependents are out there if you’re willing to do some research and ask around. You could shop around for a new policy when the next open enrollment period begins.
If your mother is over 65, she automatically qualifies for federal Medicare benefits. This is a great alternative because it won’t mess with your health insurance or cost you any extra money. If your mother is under 65 and has low or no income, she may meet the requirements for Medicaid benefits. Again, this won't cost you anything, but it will give you peace of mind that your mother's health care needs are being met. Finally, check out the options at AARP, which offers low-cost health insurance to Americans over the age of 50.
Chelsea Levinson earned her B.S. in Business from Fordham University and her J.D. from Cardozo. She has been writing professionally for more than ten years. She has created personal finance content for Bank of America, H&R Block, Huffington Post and more.