Common Questions Under the Healthcare Reform Laws- Part 11

December 2011

Under the Healthcare Reform laws, which individuals qualify for tax free health coverage?

The Healthcare Reform laws expanded the group of individuals who can receive accident or health benefits on a tax-free basis to include children “of the taxpayer” who have not attained age 27 as of the end of the taxable year, as provided in Code Section 105(b). This change means that, in addition to the employee and his or her spouse, the following individuals may now receive employer-provided health coverage on a tax-free basis:

  • any child of the employee, until the end of the year the child turns age 26;
  • an employee’s qualifying child; and
  • an employee’s qualifying relative.

For purposes of this exclusion, a “child” means “a son, daughter, stepson, or stepdaughter of the taxpayer, or an eligible foster child of the taxpayer, “as provided under Code §152(f)(1) The terms “qualifying child” and “qualifying relative” are defined using the modified Code §105(b) definition.

Please remember that the tax-treatment provisions apply to all employer-provided accident or health coverage, including plans that provide only HIPAA-excepted benefits, such as limited-scope dental or vision benefits and most health FSAs.

Special Note: Under these new rules, coverage for a child of a civil union spouse or domestic partner will only be tax free if he or she meets the requirements for being a qualifying relative. In many situations, the child of a civil union spouse or domestic partner may not be the “child” or the “qualifying child” of the employee.

Further Note:  For distributions from  a Health Savings Account (HSA) to be tax free for account holder, the medical expense must be incurred by an individual who meets the requirements for being either a “qualifying child” or a “qualifying relative,” as defined using the modified Code §105(b) definition. Code §223 was not amended by the Healthcare Reform laws to add a provision allowing expenses for children under age 27 who are not Code §105(b) dependents, so unlike health FSAs, HRAs, and HDHPs, HSAs cannot pay the expenses of such children tax-free.