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You cannot change the details of your health insurance coverage outside of the open enrollment period. That includes adding and removing dependents to your health plan. The one exception is if you have a qualifying event that creates a special enrollment period.

Once you make your health insurance choices during your annual open enrollment period at work — including naming the dependents in the plan — they’re locked in until the following year’s open enrollment period unless you experience a qualifying event.

Major life events that will allow you to adjust your employer-sponsored health insurance plan include:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce or legal separation
  • Gain a child through birth or adoption
  • Loss of a child’s eligibility (reaches the maximum age for coverage)
  • Death of dependent (spouse or child)
  • Loss or gain of health coverage due to a change in employment status for you, spouse, or dependent
  • Relocation by you or a dependent to an area outside of the health plan service area

After an eligible life event, the window to make changes to your health plan is short — usually just 30 or 31 days. If you don’t act promptly to make changes, you have to wait until the next annual enrollment period.

Let’s look at an example. Say your child got health insurance through a full-time job. They are listed in your health coverage and removing them from the plan would save you more than $200 a month.

You can typically remove your child from health coverage if they just got health insurance and you make the change within a special enrollment period. However, if you miss the special enrollment period, you’ll have to keep your child on your health plan until the next open enrollment period.

Another instance that would start a special enrollment period is when your child, who is on your health coverage, turns 26. The Affordable Care Act allows parents to keep children on their health plans until 26. Once they turn 26, they have to find other coverage. For instance, they could enroll in an employer’s plan, an Affordable Care Act marketplace plan, or get added to a spouse’s health insurance plan.

If you’re not able to remove your child, they will have double coverage. Having two health plans means two premiums but can also result in lower out-of-pocket costs when they need care. 

Read more about primary vs. secondary coverage when you have two health plans.

Can I remove a dependent from my health insurance at any time? 

No, you cannot remove a dependent from your health insurance at any time. You can remove a dependent from your health insurance either during the special enrollment period, i.e, within 30 days of a qualifying event, or during the open enrollment period, which happens in November. The following are considered qualifying events: 

  • Change in marital status
  • Change in employment status of you or your spouse
  • Death of spouse or other dependents
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Dependent no longer eligible (due to age, full independence, or marriage)
  • A significant change in your plan costs 

How can I remove dependents from my health insurance? 

During a qualifying event, you can remove your spouse or dependents from health insurance in your policy’s online portal or by calling your insurer. You may need to work with your benefits coordinator if you receive health insurance through your employer. 

During open enrollment, you have the option to adjust all the details of your health insurance policy. 

How long can my child stay on my health insurance? 

Health insurance plans often allow young adults to stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26

If you have added your child to employer-sponsored coverage, they can stay on your plan until they turn 26. But, if you have added your child to marketplace coverage, then they remain covered until 31st December of the year they turn 26 (or the age permitted in your state).

Some states follow the ACA’s 26-year rule, but also have laws to extend the age limit for a child to stay on their parent’s health insurance up to 30 to 31 years, under certain conditions.  

When can a parent drop their child from health insurance?  

A parent can drop their child from health insurance when they either turn 26 or lose their eligibility once they become fully independent. Legally, the Affordable Care Act mandates that children are covered under their parent’s health insurance plan until they turn 26, provided their parent’s plan covers dependents. This is applicable to unmarried and married children. 

Sources:

Employee services agency. “ Adding or removing a dependen.”Accessed June 2022.

Leegov.com.” Adding/Dropping family members to/from my plan .”Accessed June 2022.

Healthcare.gov. “ How to get or stay on parent’s plan.”Accessed June 2022.

U.S. Government publishing office.” Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”Accessed June 2022.

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