NPR : News

Filed Under:

State Laws Could Muddle Same-Sex Marriage Benefits

Till death do us part, so let's figure out this insurance mess.
Richard Settle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/weho/2496809231
Till death do us part, so let's figure out this insurance mess.

Even if the Supreme Court sweeps aside barriers to federal- and state-sanctioned same-sex marriages this summer, where you live and work may still affect your access to health insurance benefits for a same-sex spouse.

The court is considering whether the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, is constitutional. It's also weighing whether it's permissible for states, in this case, California, to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. Multiple outcomes are possible.

The court could, as some predict, strike down the section of the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriages but leave unsettled questions related to state recognition of such unions. If that happens, health coverage problems for same-sex couples could persist, say advocates.

"Until same-sex couples can marry coast-to-coast and be entitled to equal treatment under federal law, we're going to continue to see problems," says Tara Borelli, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, an advocacy group.

Now, nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

If a same-sex couple both lives and works in the District there may not be insurance difficulties. But what if one of them works in Virginia, where same-sex marriage isn't recognized? If a Virginia-based employer doesn't voluntarily provide benefits to same-sex spouses, the employee might not be able to insure a spouse even though they're legally married in the state where they live.

It's worth noting that a growing number of employers are stepping up to the plate. In 2012, over half of employers with 10 or more workers offered same-sex health insurance benefits, according to human resources consultant Mercer.

If the Supreme Court were to strike down the section of DOMA that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages but let states decide their own marriage laws, "it adds a lot of complexity," says Catherine Stamm, a senior associate at Mercer. "Which state law will apply--where they're married, where they work, where they pay taxes, or where their insurance is based?"

Copyright 2013 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.

 

WAMU 88.5

It Takes A Nation: Art For Social Justice At The American University Museum

As the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, graphic artist Emory Douglas created striking visual images for the movement's publications and posters.

NPR

Long Absent In China, Tipping Makes A Comeback At A Few Trendy Restaurants

Viewed for decades as capitalist exploitation, tipping is now encouraged at some upscale urban restaurants catering to wealthy young customers. Restaurateurs insist it's strictly voluntary.
WAMU 88.5

It Takes A Nation: Art For Social Justice At The American University Museum

As the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, graphic artist Emory Douglas created striking visual images for the movement's publications and posters.

WAMU 88.5

DDOT Questions Metro's Ability To Protect People With Disabilities For Ride-Hailing Paratransit Trips

As Metro looks to reduce the cost of its expensive MetroAccess paratransit service, they're turning to ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to provide low-cost trips. Some critics say they represent a race to the bottom.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.