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What Options Do Parents Have for Coverage for Kids?

WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Michelle Andrews

Mon, Dec 19 2011

As the October launch of the state health insurance marketplaces approaches, parents have many questions about covering their children.

Q. Why is it that the adult children of retired members of the military cannot stay on their parents' insurance? My husband served for 22 years in the Marine Corps. My adult children are still in college, but they have been dropped from our insurance, Tricare Prime.

A. The Affordable Care Act allows adult children to stay on their parents' health plan until they reach age 26 in most cases. But Tricare, the health plan for military service members, is governed by a different set of statutes, and the ACA's provisions that expand young adult coverage don't apply to it.

Tricare allows dependent children to remain on their parents' plan until they turn 21, or until they turn 23 if they're full-time students who are supported financially by their parents, according to Austin Camacho, chief of the benefit information and outreach branch of Tricare Management Activity.

Once adult children are no longer eligible for regular Tricare, they can enroll in the Tricare Young Adult program, which provides coverage for children up to age 26 who are unmarried and don't have employer coverage available to them, says Camacho. Unlike regular Tricare, however, the young adult program is a premium-based plan that costs up to $180 per month.

Q. I am a divorced dad who has responsibility for maintaining my 15-year-old daughter’s health insurance. It was easy when I was working and had a corporate health plan. Now that I am retired and in the Medicare program, I am looking for alternatives when the new exchanges open in October. Can I buy health insurance for just my underage daughter on these new exchanges?

A. Yes, you can. The new health insurance marketplaces, also called exchanges, are required to sell child-only policies for children up to age 21.

If you claim your daughter as a dependent on your tax return and your income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($62,040 for a family of two in 2013), you may qualify for a premium tax credit to reduce the cost of coverage. If your ex-wife claims your daughter as a dependent, however, in order to receive the tax credit she would have to apply for it based on her household income, says Brian Haile, a senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service in Nashville.

Depending on your income, your daughter might qualify for health insurance through your state's Medicaid or CHIP programs for lower income people. As of January 2013, all but four states covered children in families with incomes up to at least 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($31,020 for a family of two in 2013) through one of those programs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

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