Can Dependents be Insured Under Medicare?

Kelli Vorndran
Can Dependents be Insured Under Medicare?

As time passes and more people wait to marry and to have children, there's an obvious effect — more people are caring for children later in their lives.

If you wait until age 35 to have your first child, you'll be in your late fifties when he or she graduates from college. If you have a child even later, you could end up in a situation where you still have a dependent child when you're nearing your optimal retirement age. You could even have a child still depending on you for health insurance when you're eligible for Medicare.

If that's what's right for your career, your family, and yourself, then it is what you should do. However, the later you get in life, the more likely it is that you will be supporting one or more of your children while you're insured through Medicare.

Medicare is only available to those who qualify for the program — through age (65 years old or older) or through certain disabilities and illnesses. Medicare does not offer an option to insure your dependents, and if you're still supporting your kids, they could end up uninsured.

Depending on your children's ages, you have several options for making sure that doesn't happen:
  1. Until you are actually enrolled under Medicare, your children can remain on your existing insurance until the age of 26 under changes made by the Affordable Care Act. This doesn't apply to Medicare, though, and also won't necessarily apply to retiree-only health plans that do not offer dependent coverage.

  2. If your former employer offers a retiree plan and you're using that as secondary insurance, you may be able to use that as long as your child meets the plan's requirements for being your dependent.

If you only have Medicare, or if your children are all college graduates but are still depending on your help with medical coverage, there are still a couple of options:

  1. Losing dependent status under the rules of a current health plan is one trigger for eligibility for COBRA options. Your new Medicare eligibility would be another. COBRA would allow your child to remain on his or her current coverage for up to three years. You will be responsible for the entire premium.

  2. A second option is to simply purchase an individual policy. This could be relatively inexpensive, if your children are healthy. If not, then one of the pre-existing condition plans created under the ACA could be the better option.

If the need is more for the short term, though — say, your child is a college graduate looking for work — then a short-term insurance plan could be the best-suited for your situation. These plans run for a maximum of 6 to 11 months, depending on the state, and can also be relatively cheap.

Remember, STM plans are not ACA compliant and penalties, although relatively minor in 2014, are applicable.

Whichever option you choose, be sure to research it thoroughly before committing to it. Healthcare for your children is very important. You need to make sure the insurance option you choose is the best fit for you and your children.

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