eHealth Answers Questions About Same-Sex Couples and Health Insurance Following Recent Supreme Court Decisions
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--(Jul 9, 2013) - Today eHealth, Inc. (
The Supreme Court of the United States recently declared unconstitutional Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. The court also let stand a lower court's ruling invalidating California's Proposition 8, which had prohibited legal same-sex marriages in the state. The following "Frequently Asked Questions" seek to clarify the impact of these rulings on the health insurance options of same-sex couples:
FAQ: Same-Sex Couples and Health Insurance Choices
Question: How do the Supreme Court's recent rulings on same-sex marriage impact the health insurance options of same-sex couples?
Answer: The Supreme Court ruled that the section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prohibits the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. The full implications of this ruling still need to be worked out, but it appears to eliminate restrictions that had previously prevented the legally married, same-sex spouses of federal employees from participation in the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program, including the ability to enroll as a dependent in their spouse's federal health insurance plan.
By effectively overturning California's Proposition 8, the Supreme Court's other decision opens the door for same-sex marriages to begin again in the state. The impact of this decision is limited to California, but it will have no direct effect on access to health insurance for same-sex partners in the state. California's department of insurance already required insurers to provide health coverage both to registered same-sex partners as well as legally married heterosexual and same-sex couples.
For same-sex couples in which neither partner is employed by the federal government, or for those living in states where same-sex marriage is illegal, the Supreme Court's decisions may have little immediate impact on their health insurance options. Some states currently require health insurance companies to offer coverage to same-sex couples, though proof of a legally recognized domestic partnership may be required; other states make no such requirement, but insurance companies are free to offer coverage to same-sex couples if they wish. Employers may also opt to provide group coverage for same-sex partners of employees, even in states where there is no state requirement to do so.
Question: How do same-sex partners actually go about obtaining family health insurance policies together?
Answer: When it comes to purchasing health insurance plans on their 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 eHealthInsurance, or a licensed agent in their local area. At eHealthInsurance.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.
Question: What are the benefits of health insurance coverage for same-sex partners?
Answer: 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.
Question: Are there any reasons why a same-sex couple may opt NOT to purchase health insurance together?
Answer: Yes. 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.
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