Do You Have to Be Married to Share Health Insurance?

by Shala Munroe

It's unlikely that health insurance costs are going to taper off anytime soon, and the steadily rising costs have made health insurance unaffordable for many Americans. People who are self-employed, were recently laid off or only work part-time are unlikely to find the same affordable health insurance offered by many businesses for their full-time employees. You don't always have to be married to share health insurance benefits with someone.

Homosexual Domestic Partners

Historically, health insurance benefits could only be shared by spouses and minor children living in the home. That changed in the 1980s, when a small number of companies began to offer health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners as well as spouses. In most cases, domestic partners must provide proof of their commitment to each other in the form of an affidavit affirming such facts as that they've lived together for more than six months and they share in the financial responsibility for the home. Some companies require same-sex partners to file their domestic partnership with the court before they can share benefits.

Heterosexual Domestic Partners

In some cases, it's harder for opposite-sex domestic partners to share health insurance benefits. Some companies have policies that state opposite-sex couples have the opportunity to marry, which many same-sex couples do not, so opposite-sex couples are only covered when married. However, many companies offer benefits to domestic partners regardless of their sexual orientation.

Grown Children

Prior to the beginning of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, many insurance companies dropped children from family policies once they turned 18 or, in some cases, when they turned 21. This often left the young adults who might still be in college or have only part-time jobs without adequate health insurance. They could, of course, get married and share their spouse's health insurance, but that's not always a viable solution. After the Act went into effect, parents could continue covering their grown children through age 26, even if their child got married before age 26. The child's spouse doesn't qualify for coverage under the in-laws' health plan.

Tax Implications

As of 2013, the Internal Revenue Service doesn't treat domestic partnerships for homosexual or heterosexual couples the same as married couples. When employers pay for the health insurance for spouses, the IRS doesn't normally consider the benefit as taxable income. However, if your company pays for your domestic partner's health insurance, the IRS is likely to consider the amount taxable income. Depending on the amount your company pays, this could increase the amount of income taxes you owe. The same might hold true for grown children who share your health insurance benefits. If you list them as legal dependents on your taxes, usually meaning they still live with you and are unmarried, you might not have to pay taxes on the amount your company pays to cover them. However, if they are employed full-time, live outside your home or are married, it's likely their health insurance costs will be a tax liability to you. Talk with your accountant to determine how much it can cost you tax-wise when you cover domestic partners or grown children on your health insurance.

About the Author

Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.

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