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Finding domestic partner health insurance

November 23, 2011

By Brad Jacklin, program director, New Beginning Initiative, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new feature on its healthcare.gov website to increase access to health insurance for domestic partners. The  website is the federal government’s source of information for employers and consumers on all things related to implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which had the purpose of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance (if you want to see what the federal government has already done and will be doing with the Affordable Care Act check out this timeline.)

Here’s how it works. If you are a small employer or work for one (check your state for what qualifies as a small employer, but it typically is 50 employees or less) you can go to healthcare.gov and follow the prompts to find insurance plans available in your state for small employers or the self-employed. You can then compare the products for a variety of features, including enrollment of domestic partners or same-sex spouses.

It’s simple to do and the option to compare up to 3 plans at a time makes comparisons easier. After just a few minutes I completed a search of insurers in my home state of Indiana and compared three plans at random. I could easily see that only one of the three insurers permitted a domestic partner or same sex spouse of the employee to be added to the plan.

The need for access to domestic partner and same-sex spouse health insurance is getting quite a bit of attention this year. Over the summer we told you about the U.S Department of Labor’s groundbreaking data on access to a variety of employer-provided benefits for both same-sex and opposite sex unmarried partners. Disturbingly, only 30 percent of employees with an employer who provides benefits have the option of adding their same-sex domestic partner to a health insurance plan, while recent data shows that nearly 75 percent of employees have access to health benefits.

There’s much more work to be done to make sure all LGBT people and families have access to affordable health insurance, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s new tool for small employers is a step in the right direction to give this issue visibility and raise awareness with both insurance providers and small employers.

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