SCOTUS, DOMA, and Health Insurance
The news was heard far and wide on June 26th when the Supreme Court struck down the section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
The DOMA ruling will enable federal employees to obtain benefits for their same sex spouse if the couple resides in a state where gay marriage is legal.
And while gay marriage is now legal again in California and other states, how it affects same sex couples looking for health insurance can seem a little complicated.
At eHealth, we’ve received some phone calls about the recent ruling and how it affects health insurance, so we thought it might be helpful to post answers to the top three questions here.
What are the benefits to same sex partners enrolling in health insurance together?
Clearly, there’s a symbolic benefit for many same-sex couples when they’re able to purchase or enroll in a single family health insurance plan. There are more practical benefits as well. For example, they will now pay only one monthly premium for health insurance coverage, and, in states where same-sex marriage is legal, they will be able to discuss some of their spouse’s billing issues with the insurance company (personal health issues are still protected by the HIPAA law).
Same-sex couples could also potentially save on deductibles. Having a single deductible for the whole family may save you money when compared to paying two separate deductibles, especially when there are dependent children covered under the same plan. Also, as with married heterosexual partners, the older partner may enjoy more affordable coverage because rates for a family policy are based on the younger spouse’s age.
What’s the best way to start shopping for health insurance?
When it comes to purchasing health insurance plans on your own, same-sex couples can shop for and purchase coverage the same way as anyone else, regardless of which state they live in. We recommend that shoppers work with a licensed online health insurance agent, like eHealth, or a licensed agent in their local area.
At eHealth.com, shoppers are able to enter their ZIP code, gender and date of birth – along with the gender and date of birth of their partner – and review quotes from health insurance plans that are available to same-sex couples in their area.
When should same sex couples opt out of purchasing health insurance together?
As with heterosexual couples, premiums for family coverage may in some cases be more expensive than premiums for two individual health insurance plans, and one partner’s health and coverage needs may differ significantly from the other’s. Same-sex couples who are interested in purchasing coverage should do the math and consider all options before applying for coverage.