HHS Expands Medicare Nursing Home Coverage To Same-Sex Couples

On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its first guidance related to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. According to the memo, same-sex marriages will be recognized equally with other marriages in regards to nursing home coverage under private Medicare plans, ensuring that same-sex couples will not be separated because they could not access coverage in the same nursing facility. Marilyn Tavenner of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CSM) explains:

TAVENNER: Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation. Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.

The decision will make sure that same-sex couples do not have to be separated into different homes or be forced to drop out of their Medicare Advantage plan and pay out-of-pocket to stay in the same home as their partner.

Notably, the guidance specifies that this protection will apply to all legally recognized same-sex marriages, “regardless of where they live.” Like many other federal benefits — though not Social Security — it recognizes the “place of celebration” for marriages, and thus the coverage will apply even in states that do not legally recognize same-sex marriages. All that matters is that couples obtain a license in a state that does.