Health Insurance When Both Spouses Work

Spouses tend to share a lot of things including bank accounts, mortgages, family income, savings, etc. But when choosing health insurance, a few things have to be considered.

In today’s dynamic job market, it is increasingly common for both spouses in a household to be employed. While this can bring financial stability and career fulfillment, it also raises important considerations regarding health insurance coverage. With multiple employer-sponsored plans, selecting the most suitable option for a dual-income family can be complex.

Health insurance is vital to safeguard a family’s well-being, providing access to essential medical services and protecting against unexpected healthcare expenses. When both spouses work, they often can enroll in separate health insurance plans offered by their respective employers or explore alternatives, such as a family plan. Understanding each option’s benefits, costs, and coverage details is crucial for making an informed decision that optimizes healthcare access and financial security.

This article aims to guide dual-income families through the intricacies of health insurance selection. We will explore key factors, including plan types, coverage networks, cost-sharing arrangements, and dependent coverage. Additionally, we will delve into the advantages and potential challenges of different approaches, equipping couples with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of health insurance when both spouses work.

Health Insurance When Both Spouses Work

 Image Source: Compare The Market
Image Source: Compare The Market

When both spouses work, deciding on health insurance depends on the coverage provided, the out-of-pocket costs you’ll incur, and the options available. Not all employers offer health insurance to their employee’s spouses. The ACA mandates health insurance by the employer to cover children under 26 years of age but does not include spouses. There are special considerations you should make when choosing a health insurance plan. Let’s take a look at some of these.

Out-of-Pocket Exposure

Families should consider the overall out-of-pocket costs they may face when considering health plans. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a maximum limit is set for total out-of-pocket expenses related to in-network treatment of essential health benefits. The Department of Health and Human Services adjusts this limit annually for inflation.

In 2023, the upper cap for out-of-pocket costs is $9,100 for an individual and $18,200 for a family plan. Please note that these limits do not apply to health plans exempt from ACA regulation, such as grandmothered or grandfathered plans or short-term health insurance.

For 2024, the upper limits on out-of-pocket costs will increase to $9,450 for an individual and $18,900 for a family plan.

If a family chooses to have one spouse on one plan and the other spouse on a separate plan with the children, each plan will have its out-of-pocket limit. Consequently, the total exposure could be higher if the entire family were on a single plan.

It’s essential to be aware that Original Medicare does not have a cap on out-of-pocket costs, and this has not changed with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, individuals enrolled in Original Medicare require additional coverage, such as a Medigap plan, a Medicare Advantage plan, or coverage from a current or former employer, to limit their out-of-pocket expenses.

Healthcare Considerations

When one spouse is in good health while the other has significant medical conditions, having two individual healthcare policies may be financially beneficial.

The spouse in good health could opt for a lower-cost plan that comes with a more limited network of healthcare providers and higher out-of-pocket expenses. Meanwhile, the spouse with medical conditions may prefer a higher-cost plan that offers a broader network of providers and/or lower out-of-pocket costs.

It is important to note that this may not always be the case, especially if one spouse has access to a high-quality employer-sponsored plan that covers both individuals at a reasonable premium. However, depending on the specific circumstances, some families find it prudent to choose separate healthcare plans based on their unique medical needs.

Provider Network

 Image Source: TechCrunch
Image Source: TechCrunch

The preferred healthcare providers and facilities for each spouse are crucial. Some health insurance plans have a more extensive network of doctors, specialists, and hospitals, while others have more limited options. If one spouse has specific healthcare providers they prefer or require due to ongoing treatments, choosing a plan that includes those providers in its network may be necessary.

Employer Coverage

 Image Source: JobSage
Image Source: JobSage

If one or both spouses have access to employer-sponsored health insurance plans, the options and costs associated with those plans should be evaluated. Employer plans may provide coverage for both spouses at a reasonable premium, making it advantageous to choose a single plan. However, it’s essential to assess the quality of coverage and compare it to other available options.

Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSAs)

 Image Source: 25 Financial
Image Source: 25 Financial

If either spouse has an HSA or wishes to establish one, it’s necessary to consider how the health insurance choices align with HSA eligibility requirements and contribution limits. Certain High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) are qualified for HSAs, allowing individuals to contribute pre-tax funds for medical expenses. Ensuring that the chosen health insurance plans align with HSA requirements can maximize the benefits of these accounts.

Separate Coverage Health Insurance When Both Spouses Work

Separate coverage means that each spouse will be covered by their plans. They may or may not share the same clinics or doctors and will handle their costs separately. Going for separate coverage may be your only option if your employer does not allow you to cover your spouse on your plan. This may be if your spouse is already covered by their employer.

 Image Source: InsuranceDekho
Image Source: InsuranceDekho

You may also go for separate coverage if your employer charges a “spousal surcharge” for covering your significant other if they already have coverage from their employer. The couple may go for separate coverage if the spousal coverage is more than getting separate coverage.

If you go for separate coverage and have kids, you may cover the kids in both or under one plan only. Remember to pay twice for your kids if both plans cover them. Compare your costs and if your child has any medical conditions before you choose how to go about it.

Dual Coverage Health Insurance When Both Spouses Work

 Image Source: The Straits Times
Image Source: The Straits Times

Dual coverage health insurance means that each spouse is covered by their own and each other’s plan. This type of health insurance can be more expensive but can provide more coverage to each individual. If you go for dual coverage, you must pay two monthly premiums. In return, you may be getting better coverage. For instance, if you go to the hospital, your medical expenses total $10,000. Your employer-provided plan may cover 40% of the total expenses, while you may get another 40% coverage under your spouse’s plan. This way, you only pay 20% out of your pocket instead of 60% if you were covered separately. In some cases, dual coverage covers the entire medical costs.

Shared Coverage Health Insurance When Both Spouses Work

Shared coverage means that both spouses select which plan is the best for coverage and cost, and both get coverage. The other spouse declines their plan. This is one of the most common ways for families to get insurance. It is cheap as you pay for only one insurance, and sometimes the spouse who declines employer insurance receives a small financial bonus for saving the company money.

Before you choose which plan to go for, check how each is priced. One employer may offer low deductibles for you but a higher premium for spousal coverage. The other may offer to cover the entire family for less. You should also compare the benefits of each plan. A cheaper plan may have high deductibles and copays for lesser coverage so that you may be paying more in real life. This especially carries weight if any member of your family has a lot of health problems.

If you already have a doctor that you go to, you might want to check if they are included in your insurance provider’s network. If not, they might be a part of your spouse’s employer insurance. You could choose the plan that covers your regular doctor, even if it is more expensive.

Special Considerations

Additional factors influencing health insurance decisions include:

  • Prescription medication needs.
  • Maternity coverage.
  • Pediatric care.
  • Mental health service.
  • Any specific health conditions or treatments requiring coverage.
 Image Source: ET Money
Image Source: ET Money

Considering these factors and discussing the options can help spouses make informed decisions about health insurance that best meet their individual and family needs. It’s advisable to review plan details, compare coverage options, and seek guidance from insurance professionals or employer benefits representatives to make the most suitable choices.

Health Insurance When Both Spouses Work For The Same Company

If both spouses work at the same company, they may enroll in a single plan or separately. Your monthly premium will probably not change whether you enroll individually or together. However, your employer’s contribution towards your monthly premiums may vary. For instance, if your company only pays for employees’ premiums, not the dependent, you may want to enroll separately.

Can I carry my spouse on my health insurance?

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Image Source:

You can carry your spouse on your health insurance plan, given that your employer-provided plan allows that. Under the Affordable Care Act, there is no compulsion on the employer to provide coverage to the spouse as well. However, most employers do cover dependents, including the employee’s spouse.

Should Both Spouses Get Health Insurance?

Each individual should have their own health insurance. Whether married or in a domestic partnership, each should be covered under a health insurance plan. The coverage could be under the employers or individual plans purchased from the marketplace.

Dual Health Insurance Coverage Rules

Dual health insurance can increase your combined coverage under both plans. While the rules may vary depending on the specific insurance policies and local regulations, here are some general considerations you need to consider.

  • Primary and Secondary Insurance: When using dual coverage, one insurance plan acts as the primary and secondary plan. How do you determine which health insurance plan is primary and which is secondary? If you are covered by your plan and your spouse’s plan, then your plan acts as the primary insurance plan. It will pay for the claim if the secondary plan does not exist. Whatever amount is left over will be covered by the secondary plan. The total amount reimbursed to you will not be more than what the total bill is.
  • Coordination of benefits: The insurance holder cannot decide which plan is primary or secondary. Both plans provided work together to cover claims for the insurance This is known as ‘coordination of benefits.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: If you have a pre-existing condition, each insurance plan may impose waiting periods or exclusions for pre-existing conditions, while others may provide immediate coverage. It’s essential to review the policies of both insurance plans to understand how pre-existing conditions are handled.
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Depending on the terms of each insurance plan, your out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance, may vary. Understanding how these expenses are calculated and how they apply to each plan is crucial.
  • Notification and Documentation: Generally, insurance companies require policyholders to inform them if they have multiple insurance coverage. You may need to provide documentation, such as coordination of benefits form, to verify your dual coverage.
  • Non-Duplication of Benefits: Insurance plans typically do not allow duplicate reimbursements for the same medical service; the total reimbursement amount from both plans usually cannot exceed the actual cost of the service.

It’s important to note that insurance policies can be complex, and the rules and regulations may differ between providers and regions. To fully understand the rules for dual health insurance coverage, review the specific policy documents for each insurance plan and consult with the insurance providers or a knowledgeable professional who can provide accurate and up-to-date information based on your specific situation.

Health Insurance For Married Couples

29% of couples choose to go with an individual health plan. There are a couple of options that married couples could go for.

 Image Source: Verywell Health
Image Source: Verywell Health
  1. Couples health insurance plan: You both will be covered by the same plan and get the same coverage and benefits. This is not a good choice when you both may have different health needs.
  2. Employer coverage: If both of you are employed and offered health coverage by your employers, you could go for a combined, dual, or separate health insurance plan. If one spouse is unemployed, they can be covered by the other’s plan.
  3. Individual coverage: You may opt for individual plans that cover each one separately and are not offered by your employer. This is especially helpful if you have separate health needs or different doctors.

Whichever policy you go for, consider your medical needs and other costs. For instance, if you’re a young couple, you might want to go for a policy that covers pregnancy and other basic hospital costs. If you’re an older couple, consider a policy that covers age-related conditions. Compare costs and talk to an insurance agent before you decide on a plan.

Benefits of health insurance for working couples

When making important decisions regarding healthcare and financial protection, couples must carefully consider the various benefits their employers offer. Additional benefits beyond traditional health insurance plans can support their well-being and safeguard their finances.

In this context, we’ll explore key additional benefits. Understanding the implications and options available for these benefits is essential for couples to make informed choices that align with their specific needs and provide a sense of security for the future.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) or Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

Your employer may offer an FSA or an HSA, which can provide tax advantages for paying healthcare expenses. If one spouse has access to an FSA, it’s important to determine if there’s a maximum annual contribution limit. Understand which deductibles, co-pays, and services are eligible for reimbursement from the FSA.

 Image Source: Entrepreneur
Image Source: Entrepreneur

Similar to an FSA, an HSA can be used to cover healthcare expenses and may receive contributions from your employer. HSAs allow balances to roll over from year to year. At the same time, FSAs typically have a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy where unused funds expire. You may need to submit claims and provide proof of medical expenses with an FSA.

Compare the contribution caps and usability of both options for you and your spouse, and choose the plan that aligns best with your needs. If you anticipate significant healthcare costs, consider allocating more funds to the account with the higher contribution limit.

Employer-sponsored disability insurance

Disability insurance safeguards your income if you become too sick or injured to work. Since you can not add your spouse to your plan, each of you should independently elect disability insurance to ensure adequate income replacement for the family in case either of you is unable to work.

 Image Source: Member Benefits
Image Source: Member Benefits

Check if your workplace coverage includes short-term disability, which typically replaces 40-60 percent of your income for a specific duration. If the offered coverage does not meet your expenses, consider obtaining supplemental disability insurance policies outside your employer’s plan. These additional plans can increase your coverage.

Some employers may provide employee assistance programs (EAPs) to aid in returning to work after an injury or accident.

Employer-sponsored life insurance

Evaluate how well and for how long a life insurance policy would support your family’s financial needs if either spouse were to pass away. Assess each policy individually as well as in the context of your partnership. Permanent life insurance options that can be retained after leaving the job can provide long-term coverage for the entire family in the event of an untimely death.

Retirement Planning

Planning for retirement is a crucial aspect of securing your financial future, and employer-sponsored retirement plans offer a valuable opportunity to accumulate assets over time. By setting aside a portion of each paycheck, you can benefit from interest growth and build a substantial retirement fund. Suppose either spouse has access to an “employer matching” program, where the employer contributes a matching amount to your contributions. Taking full advantage of this benefit is highly recommended by contributing at least the amount required for the match.

When evaluating retirement plans, reviewing any “vesting” requirements is important. These requirements determine the amount of time you must contribute to the plan before you fully own all the funds, including employer contributions. While you always own the amount you contribute, some plans have additional conditions for claiming employer-added funds. If one spouse’s plan offers employer contributions after reaching a specific milestone, such as five years of service, consider allocating more funds to that account. Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure that both spouses are named as beneficiaries on their respective retirement accounts to safeguard their interests.

 Image Source: Acquisition International
Image Source: Acquisition International

Employer benefits encompass various components contributing to overall financial, physical, and emotional well-being. Take the time to carefully review all available benefits, including 401(k) plans, transportation subsidies, and incentives like stock options. Don’t hesitate to contact your HR department for detailed information and closely examine the policies. If needed, consider consulting a financial professional who can guide you in assessing the costs and practicality of the services and protection offered.

By thoroughly considering the different components of your employer’s benefits packages from both short and long-term perspectives, you and your partner can effectively protect and plan for your future happiness together.


How does marriage affect health insurance?

Getting married has a definitive impact on health insurance. Marriage offers the benefits of accessing a family health insurance plan. Newly married couples have various options, including federal, state, private, and health insurance market plans.

Should my spouse and I have separate health insurance plans?

The decision is entirely up to you. While most spouses are covered under the same plan, whether or not you should have separate health insurance plans depends on your situation. Finding the plan that best suits your family’s needs is essential. Consider factors such as pre-existing medical conditions and extensive provider network requirements. It is worth noting that health savings accounts can only be owned individually.

Is it more cost-effective to combine health insurance with my spouse or partner?

Typically, combining health insurance with your spouse or partner is less expensive. Employer-sponsored plans usually offer the most affordable option for couples. However, it is essential to understand that every company and couple is unique. Take the time to thoroughly evaluate your options before deciding to merge your health insurance plans.

Can both spouses have health insurance coverage through their respective employers?

Yes, both spouses can have health insurance coverage through their employers. Many employers offer health insurance benefits to their employees and dependents, including spouses. Each spouse can enroll in their employer’s health insurance plan.

Can we choose one spouse’s health insurance over the other?

Yes, you can have the flexibility to choose one spouse’s health insurance plan over the other. Evaluate the benefits, coverage, costs, and network of healthcare providers offered by both plans. Consider factors such as premiums, deductibles, copayments, and the availability of preferred doctors or specialists. Compare the plans and select the one that best meets your needs as a couple.

Can we use both health insurance plans to cover our medical expenses?

Yes, you can use both health insurance plans to cover your medical expenses, but the coverage will depend on the coordination of benefits rules. The primary plan will generally cover most of the costs, and the secondary plan may cover some remaining expenses not fully paid by the primary plan. Be aware of any potential limitations, such as duplicate coverage exclusions or non-covered services under either plan.


Choosing health insurance when both spouses work involves considering factors like health status, costs, provider networks, and employer coverage. It is also important to evaluate additional benefits such as FSAs disability insurance, life insurance, and retirement plans.

Seeking guidance from professionals can provide valuable insights. By making informed decisions together and regularly reassessing their needs, couples can ensure optimal coverage and financial security. Open communication and ongoing evaluation will help navigate the complexities of health insurance effectively. Prioritizing these steps enable couples to confidently manage their health insurance, protect their finances, and plan for a secure future.

Charles Bains

Charles Bains

Charles Bains started his insurance career as a marketing intern before pounding the pavement as a commercial lines agent in Orlando, FL. As an industry journalist, his articles have appeared in a variety of trade publications. His insurance television career, short-lived but glorious, once saw him serve as the expert adviser on an insurance-themed infomercial (yes, you read that correctly). Having recently worked for various organizations, coupled with his broader insurance knowledge, Charles is able to understand our client’s needs and guide them accordingly. He is a gem for Insurance Noon as his wide area of expertise and experience have been beneficial in conducting further researches to come up with solutions and writing them in a manner which is easy for everyone including beginners to comprehend.

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