Despite DOMA Ruling, Same-Sex Couples Might Miss Out on ACA Benefits
While the U.S. Supreme Court this week in its ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act struck down provisions that blocked same-sex married couples from accessing a host of federal benefits available to other married couples, some same-sex couples still might lose their eligibility for certain consumer provisions under the Affordable Care Act, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/27).
Under DOMA, married same-sex couples have not been able to access benefits under more than 1,000 references to marital status in federal laws and regulations, including those that cover medical and family leave and have tax implications.
On Wednesday, the high court declared DOMA unconstitutional because it violates a person's Fifth Amendment right to equal liberty. The ruling meant that more than 100,000 same-sex couples who are legally married could be eligible for various tax breaks, employer-sponsored health coverage and other benefits available to other married couples.
Same-sex couples who are married and living in one of at least 12 states and the District of Columbia -- where same-sex marriage is legal -- soon will be eligible for the spousal benefits they have been denied, including:
- Family and medical leave;
- Internal Revenue Service tax credits;
- Survivors' benefits; and
- Tax-free employer-provided health coverage (California Healthline, 6/27).
However, some same-sex married couples might lose their eligibility for tax credits under the ACA, which will be provided to low-income people to cover their health insurance premiums, some observers note ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/27).
In a memo, Brian Haile -- senior vice president of health policy at Jackson Hewitt -- wrote, "Same-sex partners with similar incomes may lose out." For example, same-sex partners whose incomes fall under the eligibility threshold would qualify for the tax credits, but only if they remain single. If they get married and their combined household income exceeds 400% of the federal poverty level, they no longer would be eligible (Neel, "Shots," NPR, 6/26).
Meanwhile, the ruling also could mean that other same-sex couples will be newly eligible for the subsidies or Medicaid coverage, according to "Healthwatch." For example, a household with one high-income individual and one unemployed or very low-income individual could qualify for the benefits, whereas the high-income individual would not qualify alone ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/27).
Democrats Offer DOMA Repeal Bill
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) -- sponsor of the House bill -- welcomed the Supreme Court's ruling but noted that "our work is not yet done." Nadler said only one section of the law was struck down and other sections remain, including one that grants states the right to ban same-sex marriage. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) -- sponsor of the Senate bill -- added, "It is time" for Congress to "strike this discriminatory law once and for all."
The House bill has 160 co-sponsors and the Senate bill has 40 co-sponsors.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are aiming to keep the law on the books despite the ruling, "Floor Action Blog" reports. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to preserve DOMA (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 6/27).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.