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Health Insurance Limited for Same-Sex Couples

Gay couples in California may have many of the rights of heterosexual married partners — but not when it comes to dependent health insurance coverage, according to a UCLA study released in the July issue of Health Affairs.

California is a statewhere registered domestic partnership laws extend marriage-likerights and responsibilities, where laws regulating health insuranceand health plans require equal treatment of spouses and domestic partners.

But, according to the study, lesbian and gay couples have a difficult time collecting dependent coverage benefits outside of the public sector.

“Partnered gay men are less than half as likely (42 percent)as married heterosexual men to get employer-sponsored dependentcoverage, and partnered lesbians have an even slimmer chance(28 percent) of getting dependent coverage compared tomarried heterosexual women,” according to UCLA researchers.

Those lowerrates of employer-provided coverage mean that partnered lesbians andgay men “are more than twice as likely” to be uninsured as marriedheterosexuals,the study said.

The disparity in coverage not only results in less access to healthcoverage for those individuals, the study said, but it’s also likely that “more health spendingis pushed onto these individuals and onto the public.”

The 2004 California Insurance Equality Act required that group health insurance plans and policies with spousal coverage extend the same coverage to domestic partners. But employers with self-insured plans are exempt from that regulation, and that includes more than 30 percent of employers in the state, according to the study.

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