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Coverage For Same-Sex Spouses

Source: United Benefit Advisors (UBA)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that insurers, but not employers, must offer the same health coverage to a spouse in a same-sex marriage as they offer to a spouse in a traditional marriage. According to an article in Kaiser Health News, the change means that same-sex married couples will now be able to buy family policies if they have previously been unable to do so.

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia authorize same-sex marriage, and same-sex couples who were married in any of those locations are entitled to equal access to spousal coverage regardless of where they currently live or where the policy is offered. However, couples who are in domestic partnerships or civil unions do not receive this benefit.

Based on an HHS FAQ, unequal access to health care coverage is against the health law’s prohibition of marketing practices or health insurance benefit designs that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The federal guidance requires insurers to bring their policies into compliance by January 1, 2015, at the latest.

The FAQ clarifies that HHS is not requiring group health plans to cover same-sex spouses. However, if the employer chooses to offer this coverage, then the insurer must honor this choice.