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Will my father’s premiums go up if I get coverage through his plan instead of my university’s plan?

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  • Contributor
  • September 3, 2015

Q. I’m 24 and a graduate student. I can get health coverage through my university, but my father has an excellent plan at work, and he says that I until I’m 26, I can get insurance through his plan. If I do this, will his premiums go up?

A. Your father is right; young adults under 26 can get coverage through a parent’s plan even if their school (or their own employer) offers health insurance. 2.5 million previously uninsured young adults ages 19 through 25 had already have taken advantage of this option in the first three years that it was available.

Since most insurers charge a flat rate for a “family plan,” adding another dependent does not necessarily hike premiums as long as there are already other children on the plan. If your father has other children on his plan, the price he pays may be the same regardless of whether he has one dependent or several. According to the Commonwealth Fund, the under-26 rule led to an increase of just 0.9 percent in group plan premiums in 2012.

But that may be changing. Some insurers have begun charging per member for family coverage rather than the usual flat rate. Some also are moving away from a single deductible for the whole family and opting for a separate deductible for each family member.

Before you sign up, your father should ask his boss whether his premiums will change if he adds you to his plan. If so, you and he can crunch the numbers to see whether it makes more sense for you to get your own plan (either through the university or in the individual market) or obtain coverage under your father’s plan.