New guidance released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Friday offers crucial protections to same-sex couples purchasing insurance coverage, including through the Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The announcement comes on the heels of several incidences in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, where insurance companies refused to enroll same-sex spouses in the family coverage they selected through the healthcare.gov marketplace.
In the guidance, HHS plainly states that group and individual market insurers regulated by the Affordable Care Act cannot deny family coverage to legally married same-sex spouses where family coverage for opposite-sex spouses is offered. Coverage for same-sex spouses must be offered regardless of the state where the couple lives, or where the policy is issued, so long as the couple is legally married. This determination is based on regulations implementing the law, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in marketing and plan benefit design. The guidance does not speak to coverage for domestic partners or couples in civil unions.
HHS strongly encourages insurers to comply with this requirement in plans offering coverage during 2014, but is delaying enforcement until January 1, 2015.
Read the full guidance here.
Andrew Cray is a Policy Analyst for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress.