Health Insurance and Your Children

Extending Health Insurance for Children in New York

On June 29, 2009, Governor Paterson signed legislation which allows children to remain or obtain coverage under their parents’ health insurance through age 29. Eligibility for health insurance benefits under New York’s “Age 29” law requires that the child be unmarried, not insured or eligible for health insurance through his/her own employer, and that he/she live or work in New York, (or within the health insurance company’s area of service).

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”). The Affordable Care Act, together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 signed into law on March 30, 2010, allow children to remain on their parents’ medical insurance plan until age 26.

The Affordable Care Act applies to all young adults, regardless of where they live, the nature of their financial circumstances, marital or educational status. Whether a child is listed as a dependent on their parents’ income tax return or resides with their parents does not affect the availability of health benefits to a child under 26 years old. However, the Affordable Care Act is only applicable if the health insurance plan actually offers dependent coverage.

It is important to remember that there are detailed and specific enrollment deadlines under both the Affordable Care Act, and the “Age 29” law, and these should be checked very carefully with your carrier.

Divorce Settlement Agreements

In New York parents are required to support children until they reach the age of 21 years, unless they are sooner emancipated, (Family Court Act §413, Domestic Relations Law §240). Thus, without an agreement between the parties, courts cannot order a parent to pay support, or provide health insurance, for a child beyond age 21. However, agreements to extend child support beyond age 21 are not uncommon, and if entered into, they will be enforced by the courts, (i.e., through graduation from college, or until age 22, whichever first occurs).

Parties involved in divorces should also consider the applicability of these new health care laws, and how such laws can impact their children. Parents should consider agreements which extend the time during which they may be required to provide health insurance for their children until age 26 or 29. Doing so would reduce the number of uninsured young adults, often at little or no additional cost.