On June 26, 2013, Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, effective immediately. DOMA went into effect in 1996, and Section 3 contained a statement that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. The implications of this change for same-sex couples are momentous, especially in terms of health care coverage.
Currently, same sex marriage is legal in California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington. As of August 1, same sex couples may also marry is Minnesota and Rhode Island. It has not yet been determined how these changes will be enforced for couples who are legally married and then move to a state in which same sex marriage is not recognized.
Following are some of the biggest changes in terms of health care coverage:
- Same sex couples who are married and live in a state in which same sex marriage is legal can receive a tax deduction on their dependents premiums when covered by an employer-sponsored plan.
- It is likely that legally wed same sex couples will be able to jointly apply for tax subsidies when buying a policy through an exchange created by the Affordable Care Act come 2013, regardless of the state in which they reside. Read more about this here.
- COBRA continuation rights will now be required to be offered to married same sex spouses in states where same sex marriage is recognized.
These are just a few of the highlights of this critical decision. Read the entire Supreme Court decision here.
There are many unanswered questions left by this ruling, and they are expected to be addressed in the coming months. We will update as more details are released.