Domestic Partner Insurance
It is becoming more and more common for unmarried couples, of the same or opposite sex, to inquire about obtaining insurance and other benefits that have traditionally been reserved for married couples. Health insurance is currently undergoing fluid changes based on national and statewide laws pertaining to domestic partnerships. In states where domestic partnerships are recognized, then those couples have all the same legal rights as married couples and as a consequence, cannot be denied benefits afforded to legally married couples. On the other hand, if domestic partnerships are not legally recognized by the state in which they live, health insurance may be available, but an employer is not required by law to provide coverage to employees as part of their plan. Life insurance coverage may fall under these laws as well.
When Civil Unions and/or Domestic Partnerships Are Recognized
Although there are states which recognize domestic partnerships, not all of them extend the right to spousal health care coverage. A good example of this is Hawaii. As of the time of this writing, Hawaii does recognize what is known as ‘reciprocal beneficiary’ rights to any two unmarried people who are prohibited by law from being married, such as close family members and members of the same sex. Hawaii does not, however, mandate that health insurance benefits be mandated to domestic partnerships.
States that extend those rights would include California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Even so, these laws are constantly changing from state to state, so it is imperative that consumers check to see what their legal rights are in the state in which they live. A good place to start with your quest would be the National Conference of State Legislatures under “Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships” that was updated in September of 2010.
Domestic Partnership Health Insurance in States Where It is Not Recognized
Unfortunately, there are still many states where domestic partnerships are still not recognized which makes it a bit more difficult to determine whether or not your partner can be covered under your existing plan. If you have health insurance coverage offered by your place of employment, the first place to start would be with the guidelines established by your employer. Since domestic partnerships are not recognized in your state, there is nothing to mandate employers provide coverage for your partner.
This does not mean, however, that coverage isn’t provided. If not, your alternative would be to get private health and/or life insurance from a company that offers those benefits. Some of the bigger companies that have this coverage would include, but not limited to, Ameritas, New York Life and Health, GIGNA, Great West Life (Life and Annuity), Aetna, Kaiser Permanente, and several of the leading life insurance companies as well. Keep in mind that some of those companies may also have coverage available in some states and not in others. In addition, coverages offered may not be the same from state to state.
Health, dental and life insurance coverages are huge concerns for domestic partners and this is an area that is widely open to interpretation of the law. If you find that you have an insurance plan with your place of employment, or even a private insurance policy, then your current carrier may be able to provide the information you need as to whether or not your partner is eligible for benefits. Because employers are not legally responsible to offer insurance coverage in states where domestic partnerships are not recognized, it would be possible to find an insurance company that does provide the plan you need. The only difference would be that you would need to bear the entire cost of the policy without the employer’s contribution. Nevertheless, there are cheap insurance plans available that may even save you money in the long run.