The ability for your young adult children to stay on your health insurance plans until they are 26 years old may be a godsend. This has allowed many young adults to receive consistent care while in college, during periods of unemployment after graduation, and while working in positions that do not offer affordable insurance plans. 

According to the United States Census, "In the last decade, young adults (ages 19 to 25) gained health insurance coverage more than any other age group." This expansion in coverage was directly related to federal law allowing young adults to remain covered by their parent's insurance, regardless of enrollment in school. Census data further show that, "between 2010 and 2013, the uninsured rate improved 10 percentage points for young adults not enrolled and 3 percentage points for those enrolled in school. Between 2013 and 2015, both young adult groups, enrolled and not enrolled, experienced sharp declines, though the uninsured rate for enrolled young adults remained lower than that of those not enrolled (10.0 percent and 20.6 percent)."

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As much as this plan has benefitted children, however, the process creates a number of questions for you as parents. Now that your children are adults, what are your responsibilities in regard to health care insurance premiums, medical bills, and medical debt

Current U.S. insurance law for young adults

Under the U.S. health insurance laws, your children can remain or join a parent’s health care plan until they are 26 years old, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This is true even if your young adult child does not live with you, is not financially dependent on you, is in school, is married, has a child, or is eligible for their employer’s health care plan.

Your son or daughter stops being eligible for your health care coverage on their 26th birthday. On this day, they qualify for a special enrollment period on the health care marketplace.

Insurance premiums

Whoever holds the insurance policy is required to pay the premiums. This leaves you, as parents, to foot the initial bill for the health care plan. If you wish to be reimbursed for some of the premium by your adult children, this is an arrangement you will have to make with them directly.

If your health insurance plan is provided through your employer, then the business may pay a certain portion of the premium. This percentage is dictated in your employment contract or employee handbook.

Copays and the deductible

When you or another beneficiary seek services fully or partially covered by the health insurance plan, you may need to pay a copayment or coinsurance at the time of the doctor’s visit.

You also may owe a portion of the cost of the medical service before the health care coverage kicks in. The amount you must pay before your insurance covers medical expenses is known as the deductible. Typically, insurance plans with higher premiums have lower deductibles and vice versa.

Whether you or your adult child are responsible for copays, coinsurance, and deductibles may depend on the situation. Typically, the person receiving the medical care would pay the fees due at the time. However, because these fees are due to the insurance company, you may be held liable for them independently or jointly with the beneficiary because it is your policy.

Medical bills

You are not responsible for your adult children’s medical bills due to a medical provider. No matter who the policyholder is, any adult on a health insurance plan is considered responsible for themselves. Your children, once they turn 18 years old, make their own medical decisions. They decide when to seek care and when to submit to medical treatment. They sign their own consent forms and other medical paperwork. Whatever medical services they agree to or receive in an emergency are their own financial responsibility.

Parents can become responsible

As a parent, you can intentionally or inadvertently become responsible for your adult child’s medical bills if you sign an agreement with the insurer or a medical provider stating you can be held liable for the bill.

You should be very careful regarding signing any paperwork in your child’s place. Of course, if you are signing consent forms during an emergency, there is hardly another option. However, be wary of dealing with a medical provider’s finance department. Read every piece of paper you are handed carefully. If you sign an agreement that says you may be responsible for the bills—the paperwork may say you will be jointly and severally liable—then you could be forced to pay or be sent to collections.

Are you being called about your adult child’s medical bills?

If your adult child was or is on your health insurance plan, and you are receiving calls and letters about your child’s medical debt, consider calling a consumer protection lawyer about the debt. It can help to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney analyze your liability in relation to the debt.