On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all couples have a fundamental right to marriage, regardless of their gender. Marriage between two adults is the law of the land, and same-sex spouses are entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits provided under state laws to other spouses.
Employers who offer health coverage for spouses will now be required to provide coverage to same-sex spouses. In addition, other plans with coverage for spouses or spousal rights will need to extend these rights to same-sex married partners.
Depending upon the wording of an employer SPD, an amendment may be necessary. The law redefined “spouse”, so documents should be read in that context. If a plan already offers same-sex spousal coverage, documents may be fine. If offered during the past open enrollment, then the spouse will need to wait until the next open enrollment period or a qualifying event to enroll.
If coverage was not offered before, many plans are treating the ruling as a qualified event. For example, UnitedHealthcare will allow previously ineligible same-sex spouses until July 31 to enroll, and newly married couples may add their spouse following the marriage as permitted under special enrollment guidelines. Insured plan sponsors should check the policy of their insurer. Self-insured plans should check with counsel if they plan to respond differently.
An interesting twist will be deciding whether to continue domestic partner coverage as several large employers have already announced. About 50% of employer plans allow coverage for same-sex domestic partners. Since these couples have the right to marry, employers may wish to consider eliminating coverage for domestic partners as an option (or, if not, would opposite-sex domestic partners have to be extended coverage? I wonder).
HR managers, throw another log on the fire. You are going to be working late again.