Every year, employee health plans offer workers a chance to sign up, change their coverage or quit. Once open enrollment closes, your coverage is set until next year, unless you have a major life change. Having a baby, getting married or taking a stepchild or adoptive child into your family all let you or your spouse change coverage.
If you have dependent kids and no insurance of your own, you can put them on your spouse's insurance as soon as they become his stepchildren. Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, even an adult child can go on his plan, if she's under 26. Even if your child is married, you can put her on the plan, but it won't cover the rest of her family. Until 2014, some plans may be able to refuse coverage if your child can get insurance through her job.
If you have your own health insurance, your child can get coverage from both your plan and your spouse's plan. They will not, however, both write you checks for the same hospital visit. With stepchildren, the usual rule is that because you're the birth parent, your plan pays out first. If there are bills left that your insurance doesn't cover, you can file a claim with your spouse's plan. This is not a legally binding rule, so ask your insurer if it follows a different method.
If you take advantage of the post-marriage enrollment period, you and your child should be able to get on your spouse's policy as soon as you've completed all the paperwork. Otherwise, you may have to wait until the next open-employment period. For example, if your child has his own insurance coverage through work, then loses his job, you can put him on your spouse's plan the next time open enrollment comes around. That won't take effect, though, until the new plan year, probably on January 1.
Costs and Coverage
If your child is your dependent, she should get the same coverage as your spouse's birth children. Even if she's an adult, the rate isn't any higher than for dependents: The ACA prohibits charging different rates based on age. The company must offer the same benefits as for dependent children. Insurers can tier costs based on the number of people covered, though. If your adult child pushes your spouse into the next tier, that would raise the premiums.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.