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Domestic Partner Health Insurance

Nationally, about 19% of workers have the option of obtaining health care benefits for their domestic partners. Statistics show that the number of domestic partnerships in the United States is increasing. There are more unmarried couples openly cohabiting than ever before in this country's history. In the competitive employment marketplace, provision of domestic partner health benefits may help attract and retain quality employees and many companies are beginning to realize that this is an opportunity to provide a distinguishing benefit over their competition.

In addition, even with the unfavorable tax ramifications, the cost of the employee and domestic partner acquiring coverage through a group plan may sometimes be less expensive then acquiring coverage through an individual policy in the open market in certain areas of country (Note that this is true only in instances where the employer will pay some or all of the health insurance premiums because outside of this then individual health insurance premiums are much cheaper than group health insurance premiums).

Finally, from an overall public policy perspective, regardless of one's moral, social or religious views regarding homosexuality and non-marital heterosexual co-habitation, it is generally regarded to be true that one should encourage health insurance coverage for as many individuals as possible. If domestic partner coverage reduces the number of persons who are without health coverage, then this is a positive result.

The History Behind Domestic Partner Health Insurance

In 1980, the Village Voice, a New York City weekly, became the first employer to offer health coverage to their employees' unmarried domestic partners. During the next decade, this concept remained relatively unfamiliar; fewer than two-dozen U.S. employers offered domestic partner health coverage in 1990. However, through the 90s, domestic partner coverage expanded rapidly. Many companies in California and other states across the nation now offer domestic partner health insurance benefits.

Problems Associated with Domestic Partner Coverage

Taxes

Traditionally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has deferred to state law to define the term "spouse." However, the Defense of Marriage Act provides that same sex domestic partners may not be treated as an employee's spouse for purposes of federal law (and it follows then that a domestic partner cannot be defined as a spouse for the purposes of the COBRA health insurance laws). Same sex domestic partners will not be afforded the preferential tax treatment otherwise available to spouses; nor will unmarried heterosexual domestic partners.

New Hampshire does not have domestic partner civil union legislation as does Vermont which officially recognizes the civil union of homosexual partners who elect to undergo a civil ceremony. The IRS has addressed domestic partner benefits in several Private Letter Rulings (PLR’s), one of which involved a municipality which recognized and solemnized domestic partner relationships. In each case, the IRS determined that the domestic partner was not a spouse, did not qualify as a dependent under IRC §152 and, therefore, the employee was taxable on the health coverage premiums allocable to the domestic partner.

Cobra Health Insurance

COBRA health insurance laws protect certain employees and their dependents by allowing them group health insurance continuation coverage after a “qualifying event”. One example of this is if an employee loses their job (for almost any reason: retires, quits, even gets fired as long as it is not because of gross negligence) dies or is divorced, the "qualified beneficiary" who has been covered by the employer's health insurance plan has a right to continued group coverage for 18 or 36 months depending upon the type of the "qualifying event."

The catch is, as related to domestic partner issues, is that a “qualified beneficiary” within the meaning of COBRA is limited to an employee, spouse or dependent child who is covered under the plan. Qualified beneficiary does not include domestic partners. Therefore, if a domestic partner should lose his/her coverage as a result of a "qualifying event," the domestic partner does not have the right to continuation of coverage. (Note: Continuation of coverage could be provided voluntarily by the employer with the cooperation of the health insurer or HMO – many companies, especially in California; will offer this “above and beyond the COBRA law” benefit).

Keep in mind; there is no federal mandate for continued coverage for a domestic partner as there is with all other employers of 20 or more employees. Moreover, even if the employer wishes to provide domestic partner coverage voluntarily, to include COBRA rights, the insurance carrier underwriting the plan may not be willing to provide that coverage and in turn deny the employers request (to learn more then read the article COBRA health insurance).

Health Insurance Companies that Offer Domestic Partner Shared Benefits

Almost across the board, no insurance company (health or otherwise) offers discounted services to couples unless they are legally married, which would exclude same sex couples, except possibly for Vermont same sex couples who have united in a civil union. If you are looking for domestic partnership health insurance benefits you will most likely not find them at a discounted rate, but there are some insurance companies that will offer shared benefits.

While terms and services may vary according to where you live, a list of insurance companies that have traditionally given domestic partnership health benefits are listed below:

ALABAMA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Hartford Life and Accident New York Life and Health ALASKA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health ARIZONA Aetna Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Hartford Life and Accident HealthPartners Health Plans Humana New York Life and Health
ARKANSAS Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health CALIFORNIA Aetna Ameritas Anthem Canada Life Chinese Community Health Plan CIGNA Delta Dental Mutual of Omaha New York Life and Health Hartford Life and Accident United HealthCare Zurich COLORADO Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Hartford Life and Accident Kaiser Permanente New York Life and Health United HealthCare
CONNECTICUT Aetna Ameritas Anthem CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health DELAWARE Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health FLORIDA Ameritas Avmed Health Plan Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida*BCBSFL employees only CIGNA Great West Life Humana New York Life and Health Oxford Health Plans
GEORGIA Ameritas Anthem CIGNA Great West Life Guardian Life Insurance New York Life and Health United HealthCare HAWAII Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii Kaiser Permanente New York Life and Health IDAHO Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Group Health Northwest
ILLINOIS Aetna Chicago Ameritas CIGNA First Commonwealth Great West Life Metropolitan Life Insurance Company New York Life and Health Hartford Life and Accident United HealthCare INDIANA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health IOWA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health The Principal Wellmark BCBS of Iowa
KANSAS Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health KENTUCKY Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health LOUISIANA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health
MAINE Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health MARYLAND Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Kaiser Permanente New York Life and Health MASSACHUSETTS Aetna Ameritas BCBS of MA CIGNA Fallon Community Health Plan Great West Life Kaiser Permanente MassMutual New York Life and Health
MICHIGAN Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health MINNESOTA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health MISSISSIPPI Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health Hartford Life and Accident
MISSOURI Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Group Health Plan (GHP) Guardian Life Insurance Kaiser Permanente Metropolitan Life Insurance Company New York Life and Health MONTANA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health NEBRASKA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Hartford Life and Accident Mutual of Omaha New York Life and Health
NEVADA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Health Plan of Nevada New York Life and Health Pacificare NEW HAMPSHIRE Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health NEW JERSEY Aetna Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health Oxford Health Plans Hartford Life and Accident United HealthCare
NEW MEXICO Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Hartford Life and Accident New York Life and Health NEW YORK Aetna Ameritas CIGNA Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Great West Life Guardian Life Insurance Kaiser Permanente MassMutual MetLife MVP Health Care New York Life and Health Oxford Health Plans TIAA-CREF NORTH CAROLINA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Kaiser Permanente New York Life and Health
NORTH DAKOTA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health OHIO Aetna Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health Pacificare UnitedHealth Group OKLAHOMA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health Pacificare
OREGON Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Group Health Northwest Kaiser Permanente New York Life and Health Pacificare Hartford Life and Accident PENNSYLVANIA Atena AIG Life Ameritas Capital BlueCross CIGNA Great West Life Health America Highmark BCBS Independence Blue Cross ICHP Keystone Mercy New York Life and Health Hartford Life and Accident RHODE ISLAND Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health
SOUTH CAROLINA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health SOUTH DAKOTA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health TENNESSEE Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health
TEXAS Atena Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Guardian Kaiser Permanente Mutual of Omaha New York Life and Health Pacificare United HealthCare UTAH Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health Pacificare VERMONT Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Kaiser Permanente New York Life and Health
VIRGINIA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Kaiser Permanente New York Life and Health WASHINGTON Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Guardian Kaiser Permanente MassMutual New York Life and Health Pacificare WEST VIRGINIA Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health
WISCONSIN Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life Guardian New York Life and Health WYOMING Ameritas CIGNA Great West Life New York Life and Health  

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