President Barack Obama's health care law, signed on March 23, 2010, and upheld by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2012, changed the definition of a dependent for health insurance. In addition, some employer-sponsored plans expand the definition even further and will consider a person with whom you have no legal relationship as a dependent on your health insurance.
A Traditional Definition
The traditional definition of a dependent is similar to Internal Revenue Service relationship and age guidelines. A qualifying dependent is one who is:
- A biological or adopted son or daughter, a stepchild or an eligible foster child
- A child under 18 years of age
- A child between 18 and 23 years old who is a full-time post-secondary student
- A child of any age who is mentally disabled and not able to live independently
Young Adult Children
"Obamacare" regulations expanded the definition of a dependent to include adult children up to 26 years of age regardless of student, employment or marital status. It also no longer matters whether you provide any financial support or whether your child lives with you or on her own. A young adult can even be considered as a dependent if the child is employed and eligible for their employer's health insurance plan.
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A Domestic Partner
There is no regulation that makes it mandatory for an employer to include a domestic partner in a dependent definition, but employers do include same-sex partners and their children. In most cases, the union must meet company-mandated requirements for defining a domestic partnership. These include but are not limited to a partner who is:
- Of the same sex
- A legal adult
- Lives with you and is committed to living with you for an indefinite period
- Shares responsibility for living expenses
A Parent as a Dependent
Although most employers do not include a parent in their definition of a dependent, some large companies do. According to Ferris Morrison, a Bank of America spokesperson, a parent who is under 65 years of age, who lives with you and who is a dependent on your federal tax return qualifies as a dependent for its health insurance purposes. One additional criterion is that the parent can't be a Bank of America retiree enrolled in the company's health plan for retired workers.