Defining who or what a dependent is can be much more complicated than it seems. In general, dependents are individuals who are covered under their sponsor’s health insurance. Typically, dependents are either the spouses or children of the sponsor or beneficiary, but in recent years the definition of dependent has expanded to include a lot more people.
To start, it’s important to understand who the beneficiary or sponsor is. This is the person who receives health care coverage, either by paying for it by him or herself, or by getting coverage through the state or his or her employer. Because of this, this person is often referred to on paperwork as the primary beneficiary.
Dependents obtain their health insurance through their beneficiary or sponsor. In order to qualify, they have to have a defined relationship with the sponsor. The list of relationships that qualify can vary from policy to policy, however, making it difficult to state exactly who will qualify for insurance.
In practically every instance, however, the spouse and minor children of the primary beneficiary are considered to be dependents. It should be noted that the definition of spouse will vary in accordance with state law. Some companies will also recognize domestic partners as people who are eligible to be dependents or secondary beneficiaries. Under federal law, minor children are defined to be any legal children of the primary beneficiary that are under twenty six years old. This includes, step children, biological children, and adopted children.
People who have had a relationship with the primary beneficiary, but no longer have that relationship cannot qualify as dependents. For example, an ex-wife cannot continue to be a dependent after she divorces the primary beneficiary.
Other familiar relationships are typically handled in different ways by different insurance companies. For example, it is very rare that the parents of the primary beneficiary are able to become dependents. In some cases, however, it is possible under some insurance plans. It may also be possible for adult children to become dependents. Note that in these cases, the person in question must be living with the primary beneficiary and receive over half of their support of him or her. For example, some insurance plans will allow a mentally disabled adult child to remain on a policy after he or she turns 26.