Can I Claim My Parents as Dependents on My Health Insurance Plan?

Kathryn Hawkins


The term "dependent" typically refers to someone's children, spouse or domestic partner, but parents also may be covered in certain situations. However, their eligibility varies widely based on your insurance plan.

Parents who are 65 or older may be eligible for dependent status on your tax forms, but they generally are ineligible for dependent status on your health insurance plan. This is because they already are entitled to health coverage through the government-sponsored Medicare plan.

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To claim a parent as a dependent for health insurance purposes, you already must list him or her as a dependent with the IRS. To meet the IRS' criteria, the parent must have earned less than $3,700 in the past year, and you must have provided at least half of the parent's financial support for food, lodging, transportation and other basic necessities.

Examples of dependent coverage for health insurance

TRICARE, the coverage plan for military families, offers limited coverage for parents and in-laws of members of the military. This coverage comes through TRICARE Plus, which offers free treatment in military hospitals and military primary care facilities - if the parents or in-laws meet criteria and have been registered as dependents in advance.

At Bank of America, for example, employees' options for health insurance include an "employee plus one other adult" plan. Bank of America spokesman Ferris Morrison says parents are eligible for coverage as long as they a set of guidelines similar to the IRS guidelines.

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"The parent has to be under age 65, claimable as a dependent for federal taxes, live with the employee and not be enrolled on Bank of America's health plan for retired workers," Morrison says.

Most corporate plans limit dependent coverage to children and domestic partners. However, it's worth checking with the human resources representative at your workplace to find out whether you're able to extend dependent coverage to your parents.

Other health coverage options

So, if your parents aren't eligible for your health insurance plan, how can you help them find good coverage? Here are four options.

  1. Medicare

    If your parents are 65 or older, they'll be eligible for government-subsidized health insurance through the national Medicare program. Medicare Part A covers costs for hospital visits and treatment; this can cost up to $450 a month per person, depending on your parents' income. Medicare Part B covers preventive and diagnostic medical services, and generally costs $99 a month. If your parents need access to prescription drugs, they also should enroll in Medicare Plan D. Look at the Medicare website with your parents to figure out which coverage is right for them.

  1. Medicaid

    If your parents are younger than 65, they're generally not eligible for Medicare. However, all states offer Medicaid, a government-financed health care program for low-income people. The income thresholds vary by state; visit to find out the details for your state and see whether your parents are eligible to enroll.

  1. AARP

    If your parents are age 50 or older, they're eligible for a variety of health care discounts and plans if they're members of AARP.

  1. Individual or group health insurance

    If your parents work, they may be eligible for group insurance through their employers. Otherwise, if they don't meet eligibility requirements for Medicare or Medicaid, they can buy health insurance through an individual plan. If they have pre-existing conditions that disqualify them from individual private plans, they're likely eligible for a high-risk insurance plan. Visit to find out about your state's high-risk health insurance pool.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on Dec. 31, 2013.