Raising Women’s Voices

Barriers to coverage for gay couples

Posted in Health Disparities by raisingwomensvoices on May 13, 2009

The New York Times published an article Friday about barriers to coverage for domestic partners faced by gay couples.  Although Iowa, Vermont, and Maine have recently made headlines legalizing same-sex marriage — with a few other state legislatures currently considering it — more comprehensive health care coverage for domestic partners, whether couples are legally married or not, is not necessarily included in these civil rights breakthroughs.

One-third of companies with over 500 employees provide domestic partner benefits (up from 12% in 2000), but the proportion is much lower among small companies.  And while some state and local governments offer employees domestic partner coverage, there is no such provision for federal employees.

Even if the relationship is formalized with the state in a marriage or union, that does not always obligate the employer to cover a same-sex spouse. For one thing, self-insured employers are not regulated by the states.

And other benefit-providing employers that choose not to offer such coverage can sometimes use the Defense of Marriage Act — a law that forbids the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage — to trump state laws.

Read more here.

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