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Can you have two health insurance plans?

Written by: Gabrielle Smith
December 29, 2021 at 9:00 AM

Navigating the world of health insurance can be tricky, especially if you’ve found yourself with more than one health insurance plan to figure out. While most Americans only have one plan, known as “primary” insurance, some individuals will have another plan, known as “secondary” insurance.

While it sounds confusing, having dual insurance like this is perfectly legal—you just need to make sure you’re coordinating your two benefits correctly to make sure your medical expenses are being covered compliantly.

If you’re new to dual insurance, then this article is for you! We’ll cover:

Why would someone have two health insurance plans?

First, let’s talk about when someone might have two health insurance plans in the first place. There are actually several scenarios where this might make sense. For example, if you’re married and you and your spouse both have a group health insurance plan from your employer, you might be covered by your plan as well as listed as a dependent on your spouse’s plan.

Dual insurance is also common for students, who might be enrolled in a student or university plan, but are also younger than 26 and are still allowed to be covered under their parents’ insurance plan.

Children of divorced parents might be covered under two separate insurance plans as well—one from their mother and one from their father.

Another example is for those who qualify for Medicaid but also have their own insurance plan to supplement their Medicaid coverage. This can be a plan from the individual market or a plan from an employer.

How do two health insurance plans work together?

When you have two health insurance plans, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be fully covered twice by each insurance plan. Instead, one will need to be assigned as your primary plan, while the other will take the secondary spot. That means the total amount that your two plans pay will never exceed 100% of the cost.

Let’s dive into how primary and secondary insurance plans differ.

Primary insurance

Your primary insurance is your main insurance that will cover your healthcare expenses first before your secondary insurance. When you see the doctor or fill a prescription, your primary payer will cover the bills up to its coverage limits.

Secondary insurance

Next comes your secondary insurance. This is the plan that kicks in after your primary insurance has reached its coverage limits. If there’s anything left to pay after your primary insurance covers its portion, this is when your secondary insurance will take effect.

How do I determine which insurance is primary and which is secondary?

When it comes to deciding which insurance plan you want as your primary and which as your secondary, you actually don’t get to choose. There are specific rules about how to coordinate your two insurance plans based on your situation.

This chart will help you decide which plan will be your primary and which will be your secondary:

What two benefits are you coordinating?

Primary

Secondary

A spouse’s employer-sponsored plan and your own employer-sponsored plan.

Your employer-sponsored plan.

Your spouse’s employer-sponsored plan.

A student or employer-sponsored plan and a parent’s plan.

Your student or employer-sponsored plan.

Your parent’s plan.

Two parent plans.

The parent whose birthday is first in a calendar year. If the parents are divorced, the parent’s plan with custody of the child will be primary.

The parent whose birthday is second in a calendar year or, in cases of divorce, the parent who does not have custody of the child.

Medicaid coverage and your own health plan.

Your health plan.

Medicaid.

Do I have to pay anything out of pocket if I have two health insurances?

It’s important to note that just because you have two insurance plans doesn’t mean the full bill will be covered. You may still have out-of-pocket costs left after each insurance plan has paid its portion.

Having two insurance plans also may mean you’re paying two insurance premiums and dealing with two separate deductibles.

That’s where health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) come in handy. Through an HRA, you can get your insurance premiums, deductibles, and other qualifying medical expenses reimbursed, tax-free, up to a monthly allowance amount.

Learn more about how HRAs work for employees in our on-demand webinar

Conclusion

Whether you’re a young adult still on a parent’s plan, you qualify for Medicaid, or you and your spouse have two health insurance plans, there are all sorts of reasons why someone might be covered by two different health insurance plans. While coordinating your two health insurance policies may seem tricky at first, by following the guidelines in this article, you’ll be well on your way to managing two plans like a pro.

Topics: Individual Health Insurance, Health Benefits, Employer Funded Health Insurance

Additional Resources

Find out what you can get reimbursed with an HRA in our infographic.
See what you can expect to pay for health insurance in your state.

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