The Washington Post

HHS Says Insurers’ Coverage For Same-Sex Spouses Must Match Other Married Couples

Insurers can’t offer health coverage to a spouse in a traditional marriage if they don’t also make the same coverage available to spouses in same-sex marriages, the federal government announced Friday.

The change means that same-sex married couples who have been unable to buy family policies will be able to do so.

The guidance, presented in an FAQ format from the Department of Health and Human Services, applies to health plans in the group and individual markets that were not in operation before the health law and grandfathered in the federal health law. It clarifies existing federal rules, the guidance said.

Same-sex couples who were married in any of the 17 states and the District of Columbia that authorize same-sex marriage are entitled to equal access to spousal coverage, no matter where they currently live or where the policy is offered.

“It’s a big deal,” says Katie Keith, director of research at the Trimpa Group, a consultancy that works on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. “If you identify as married, it’s hard to stomach that you can’t get family coverage.”

The new guidance, however, does not extend to couples who are in domestic partnerships or civil unions.

In February, insurers in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and elsewhere came under criticism for refusing to sell family coverage to married same-sex couples on the health insurance exchanges. North Carolina subsequently revised its policy to allow same-sex married couples to buy family plans.

At the time, the administration said it was aware some same-sex couples were having trouble buying family plans and was looking into ways to address the issue for the 2015 plan year.

Unequal access to coverage runs afoul of the health law’s prohibition against marketing practices or health insurance benefit designs that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, the FAQ said.

Last year, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

The federal guidance requires insurers to bring their policies into compliance by Jan. 1, 2015, at the latest.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.