If an adult lives with parents, what counts as household income for ACA?

A reader asks what counts as total household income for the Affordable Care Act.

Question: If an adult, age 34, lives at home with parents and adult siblings, do they have to count total household income as including everyone in the house or just theirs since they file income taxes as a single adult with no dependents? We reached out to HHS who said we needed to ask the IRS and they told us it was a question for HHS since they are responsible for implementing the program. The two page insurance questionnaire to determine if someone is eligible for a subsidy only states total household income is used to make this determination. Thank you.

Answer: A “household” for purposes of the Affordable Care Act consists of a person filing an income tax return and those for whom he or she claims a personal exemption. These are generally those listed as dependents. If the person filing the return lives with others but is not claimed as a dependent by any of them, he or she would comprise a separate household. Unless that person has dependents, only his or her earnings would be considered in determining the household’s income.


Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. is a professor of law at the Earle Mack School of Law and professor of health management and policy at the School of Public Health at Drexel University. He also writes for The Field Clinic blog. Ask Rob your questions about the new healthcare law.