Opposite-sex domestic partners would gain the right to apply for a long-term care insurance program for federal employees under the same terms now applying to same-sex partners, under a policy change to be published Friday.
Rules from the Office of Personnel Management represent another step in the evolution of eligibility for benefits associated with federal employment in recent years, some driven by the Obama administration and others by court rulings.
The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program provides insurance for in-home or institutional care for those with certain physical or mental impairments that require assistance for regular activities of daily living such as dressing or moving about.
Unlike other federal employee insurance programs, eligible persons must pass an underwriting process in order to enroll. The entire cost is paid by the enrollee, with no government share.
Currently, those eligible to apply are active employees, retirees, spouses, children 18 or older and unmarried same-sex domestic partners who meet certain standards. The rules will add opposite-sex partners on the same terms, as well as their adult children, and will apply the same policies to unmarried partners and children of active and retired military personnel.
Before a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision repealing the definition of marriage for federal benefits purposes as only between opposite sexes, a series of Obama administration orders had made same-sex partners eligible for FLTCIP coverage as well as under certain more minor benefits.
Some of those benefits, including eligibility to use personal sick leave to care for an ill family member, applied to partners of either gender. Others applied only to same-sex partners on grounds that while opposite-sex partners had the option of marrying to gain them, same-sex partners didn’t, under the law in effect at the time.
The 2013 ruling made same-sex spouses eligible for important federal employee benefits including insurance coverage and retirement survivor benefits, regardless of the policies where they lived. Domestic partners of either gender remained excluded from them, however, except that the eligibility for same-sex partners in the long-term care program continued.
A followup ruling this year by the high court required all states to perform same-sex marriages and recognize those performed in other states.
Due to that decision, OPM recently repealed a policy it had put in place following the 2013 case. That policy had made the children of same-sex partners, although not the partners themselves, eligible for health insurance and vision-dental insurance coverage if the couple lived in a state that didn’t recognize same-sex marriage and certified that they would marry if their state did recognize it.
OPM had started the process of expanding eligibility for domestic partners in the long-term care program before that ruling was issued.