Insuring kids when both parents have employer-provided insurance

For those Doper couples who both work and have employer-provided health insurance:
Do you opt to have one parent buy health insurance that covers the whole family (kids included) while the other parent opts out of the insurance?

Many employers charge extra if your spouse could have used their own employee insurance. So we had the kids on my slightly better insurance, and my husband was on his own insurance. Then I got laid off, so now we’re all on his.

We are both federal employees, and when we were childless, it was cheaper to keep separate individual coverage, but when our kids arrived, it made sense for one of us to switch to a family plan and the other to drop individual coverage. I think we made me the policyholder because there was some possibility of her moving to part-time status.

Retired now, but ISTR that my wife’s insurance plan let her choose between employee only, employee and spouse, employee and dependent, or employee/spouse/dependent.

That way I could keep my own employer’s coverage, and my wife could cover the kids without having to pay for coverage I didn’t need.

My wife and I work for the same company. Looking at the different plans, on average it would cost $120 more for me to take the family plan than for me to cover our son and her to be on her own plan.

Things may have changed since I had to do HR, but in Hawaii, businesses are required to provide subsidized health care for full time employees, but could charge the full premium for spouse and family plans, which are usually close to 1x, 2x, 3x the individual cost. So if an individual health plan costs $400/month, the employee may pay $40/month or the employer may pay the full premium. For two people (employee and spouse or employee and child) they’ll pay the full additional $400 (2x). For a couple and any number of children, they’ll pay the full additional $800 (3x).

So couples without children would typically keep their individual plans ($40 each). Couples with one child, may opt for for the spouse/employee + child plan. And couples with more than one child may opt for the family plan. The catch is that one spouse’s plan may be better (though more expensive) for him/her, but not necessary for their partner’s or children’s needs or they may have to change physician’s if they switch providers so they stick with their individual plans.

The same calculations go into paying taxes. Is it better to file individually, file as individual with one spouse claiming the child/children or filing joint including the children.

For the first fifteen years of our marriage, my insurance was a better deal and there was no penalty if your spouse could get his own. Over the last seven or eight years, we’ve been on his insurance, my insurance, self insured, and are now all on his insurance because he gets it through work and I’m semi-retired/semi-self employed (but definitely don’t get insurance through a big corporation).

Each job is going to require you reviewing whose plan is better, whether it makes sense for one job holding adult to be on a different plan through their employer, etc. If you change jobs a lot (like we have in the past seven years) you’ll get to change insurance a lot.

And now all the Europeans can laugh at us that we put up with this nonsense…

Edit, couples with more than one child would have to switch to a family plan because the employee + 1 option is limited to two persons.

Only basic medical insurance is required to be offered and covered by the employer for full time employees. Dental, drug, vision is additional and may be subsidized or the full cost paid by the employee.

My wife’s insurance is slightly better than mine, so I dropped my individual coverage and both of us and the kids are on my wife’s insurance.

We’ll have to rethink that now that she’s signed up for the voluntary separation package, but that it’ll be a “life event” that’ll likely mean we can all move back to mine (assuming she hasn’t found a job with slightly better insurance then mine again by then).

Her insurance takes more out per paycheck per child, while mine is worded “Employee + Dependents” so it doesn’t cost me any extra to put both kids on there.

We were fortunate enough that most of the time we had minor children in the home we worked for the same school district. That allowed us to combine our benefit and get a family policy that cost us around $50/month out of pocket. And we could have opted for a higher deductible and only paid about $5.00 out of pocket.

The last two years before the youngest turned 18. we got individual policies through separate employers and had to buy a single policy for my daughter. (No self+1 dependent option. Came out cheaper than one of us getting a family policy).


If both parents have access to insurance, you do have the option of each of you covering the kids; in that case, the insurance companies typically say that the parent with the earlier birthday is the one whose insurance is primary.

For a fairly long time, we had my husband covered under my insurance because mine was much better than his.

Then he changed jobs, and his was a bit better, so we opted to keep me on my own but he and the kids were covered under his. A few years back, we did the math and realized that our best deal would be to have us all under a high-deductible plan, and with the nature of those (family deductible / out of pocket is the same whether it’s 2 or 22 people), it made sense to have us under the same policy. As his HDHP had a better employer contribution AND a lower out of pocket limit, I’m now covered under his.

We’re fortunate that neither of our employer policies have a provision saying “if you could have other coverage, you pay more”. That sounds like a logistical nightmare. My brother has two special needs adult children - and his employer allows the kids to be on the policy, but pays nothing for them.

Did you look into what a high-deductible plan would do to that?

For us, the deductible for one person is, say, 2700. For 2, it’s 5400. For 3, it’s 5400.

Otherwise, yeah - I could see that. You’d be getting your own greatly-subsidized plan, the wife’s would be less-subsidized, and the son’s would as well. So you’ve got the choice of one covered with a lot of subsidy and two without, or two with and one without.

My health insurance covered the whole family - but it was also the sort of plan with only two options- individual or family. There was no “single plus one” so since the kids were going to be covered under my (better) plan it didn’t make any sense for my husband to have his own.

We’re awash in health insurance, mine, the wife’s and my kids are covered thru their employers’ sometimes. We carefully read the policies because some say they won’t cover if another company covers (or will wait until that policy pays its max). My eldest has passed the 26 year limit and has his own insurance. Due to costs and HSA rules, we dropped my insurance from UberMegaCorp last year and went entirely on my wife’s policy. I get a series of increasingly histrionic email warnings from the benefits department as the deadline approaches in the fall – that I’m unprotected and WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PURCHASE insurance after X date. The final deadline arrives in two weeks, and I’m wondering if they’ll eventually start using a larger red font in the emails. :rolleyes:

So, the short answer: Everyone who’s eligible is on one policy. Having multiple coverage could cause confusion and additional problems.