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A Reader Asks: How Can I Get Health Coverage For My Grandchildren?

Q. My son has lost his job and my grandchildren, ages 5 and 6, are without health insurance. I am a retired schoolteacher and might be able to afford coverage for them. What are my options?

A. Your grandchildren have a couple of coverage possibilities. Assuming your son’s income is low or non-existent now because he’s out of work, the kids would likely be eligible for coverage under their state Medicaid or CHIP program for low-income children. Income eligibility varies by state, but it’s typically between 200 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $39,580 to $49,475 for a 3-person family).

If the kids don’t qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, all three of them may qualify for subsidized family coverage on the state marketplace, says Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation). Under the health law, your son’s loss of on-the-job health insurance creates a “special enrollment period” for him to sign up for coverage there. If his estimated income for this year will be less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $78,120 for a family of three) he may qualify for subsidies.

If it’s just the kids’ coverage you’re concerned about, you can investigate child-only policies on the state marketplace. Log onto healthcare.gov to get connected to your state marketplace and find details about child-only plans as well as family coverage and Medicaid/CHIP.

Finally, if you have private retiree coverage, it’s possible–but unlikely–that you could insure your grandchildren as dependents on your own plan, says Pollitz.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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