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My adult daughter, who lives with her significant other, pays for her health insurance benefits at her work. Her significant other has much better coverage. They live together and are planning to stay together. He wants to add her on his health plan at work (which is offered). She wonders if she should go onto his health plan and still hang onto hers, due to the potential of layoffs from the fluctuating economy. Can she do this legally?

It is legal to have coverage through two health insurance plans.

If your daughter were covered by both plans, the insurance she has through her employer would be the primary coverage, and her boyfriend's health plan would be the secondary coverage. The primary coverage would pay out first, and then the secondary coverage would kick in. She would have to fully disclose both types of coverage to each health plan, so the insurance companies could coordinate benefits and eliminate the risk of paying more than 100 percent of costs.

First, make sure that his plan will allow your daughter to sign on as a domestic partner who already has coverage of her own. Employer health plans vary in their rules for dependent eligibility. Some do not offer coverage for domestic partners, some extend coverage only to same-sex partners, and some offer it to both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners.

The most common employer-sponsored health plan definitions for domestic partners require the couple to share an exclusive and committed relationship and be financially interdependent, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. A growing number of employers are requiring verification for dependent eligibility and conducting audits to make sure all dependents are eligible. For domestic partnerships, documentation may include papers to show a financial relationship, such as a joint mortgage or lease.

For more, see Hey, is that really your health insurance dependent?

Last updated: Jun. 9, 2011