Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans and issuers that offer dependent child coverage must “continue to make such coverage available for an adult child until the child turns 26 years of age.” This requirement is regardless of the child’s dependent status, residency, student status, employment status or marital status. This rule applies to all health plans in the individual market and to all employer health insurance plans. (29 CFR 2590.715-2714 – Eligibility of children until at least age 26.)
Termination of coverage:
The ACA requirement for adult coverage applies only until the date that child turns 26. However, some states have laws extending coverage through the end of the month the child turns 26, or until the end of the billing cycle or calendar year or possibly beyond age 26. Check with your carrier, or policy documents to verify when coverage for a child who turns age 26 ends.
In general, employees must notify the employer in writing within 60 days of their dependent turning 26. In turn, employers with 20 or more employees, must provide a notice of COBRA eligibility, enrollment forms, duration of coverage and terms of payment to the individuals who are no longer eligible for coverage as a dependent under their parents plan. (Employers with 20 or fewer employees, may have similar obligation under State law e.g. Mini-Cobra, instead of under COBRA.)
Most states have an exception to the limiting age for disabled children. For instance, for group policies issued in Texas, a child who is not capable of self-sustaining employment because of mental retardation or physical disability and who is chiefly dependent on their parents for support and maintenance must be allowed to remain on his or her parent’s insurance, without regard to age. The employee must provide to the insurer proof of the child’s incapacity and dependency:
(1) not later than the 31st day after the date the child attains the limiting age; and (2) subsequently as the insurer requires, except that the insurer may not require proof more frequently than annually after the second anniversary of the date the child attains the limiting age.
Why does it matter?
- Financial benefit: Dependents represent a large portion of the cost of many employers’ health plans. Older children who have passed age 26 are often inadvertently included on an employee’s health plan because of a lack of understanding on the part of the employee or a lack of communication on the part of the employer, including not having a process to update the status of dependents.
- Rejected claims: Often, ineligibility isn’t determined until a dependent makes a very large claim, at which point the provider might deny coverage.
Ensuring dependents do not remain enrolled longer than they are eligible, protects not just the employer, but also the employee and his or her loved ones from future legal and financial risk.