Bill Would Offer Benefits to Domestic Partners of Federal Employees
On Wednesday, a Senate panel will mark up legislation (S 1910) that would extend health care benefits to domestic partners of federal employees, the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 5/14).
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) has introduced the bill in the last four Congresses, but it never has advanced to the full Senate, according to CQ Today.
The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011 would extend eligibility to domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees a variety of benefits they do not currently receive, including health insurance, long-term care and retirement and coverage under provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (Gramlich, CQ Today, 5/14).
DOMA Restricts Domestic Partner Insurance Coverage
In related news, the Defense of Marriage Act has "hog-tied" federal agencies from extending federal benefits, including health coverage, to domestic partners of gay employees, Politico reports.
Although the Obama administration supports expanding benefits to the partners of all federal employees, DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing marriages other than between a man and a woman. As a result, the Office of Personnel Management has extended certain benefits to same-sex partners, but it cannot make others -- including health insurance -- available to such partners because federal statute designates those benefits for "spouses."
Further, without a change in DOMA same-sex couples will be treated differently than married straight couples under some aspects of federal health reform law, according to Politico.
For instance, premium subsidies and Medicaid coverage offered through state-based health insurance exchanges will be determined by federal tax filing status, which same-sex couples are prohibited from filing jointly. As a result, some same-sex couples actually could be eligible for more generous benefits.
In addition, the overhaul could lead to differences between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples in determining who is eligible for Medicaid (Norman, Politico, 5/14).
Many Businesses Offer Health Benefits to Same-Sex Partners
In other related news, many businesses already offer benefits to workers' domestic partners, Kaiser Health News reports.
According to a survey of 3,000 employers by the benefit consultant Mercer, 52% of businesses in 2011 offered domestic partner health benefits, an increase from 31% in 2010. According to KHN, many companies are offering such benefits in an attempt to lure more desirable workers (Appleby, Kaiser Health News, 5/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.