Insurance Law

SCOTUS on Same-Sex Marriage Yields Health Insurance 'Side Effect'

A thought-provoking article in The Columbus Dispatch exposes apparent employer-sponsor concerns about the legitimacy of domestic partner arrangements. The Cleveland City Council's decision to terminate extension of family benefits to employees' domestic partners unless they get married would seem to indicate doubts about the viability of domestic partnerships in the context of defining who should be defined as a 'covered dependent' and why.

In addition, the City Council's decision to introduce legislation to terminate the city's domestic partner registry would seem to find support in the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on same-sex marriage, thereby forcing domestic partners to get married to validate the true nature of their relationship - that is, if their domestic-partner relationship was legitimate in the first place and they want to preserve family benefits.  On the other hand, arguments could be advanced that many domestic-partners prefer not to marry, notwithstanding the SCOTUS decision, and there may be good reasons for this preference. 

So some interesting questions emerge.  For example, does the SCOTUS decision obviate the need for domestic-partner recognition?  Also, the Cleveland City Council - and other benefit program employer sponsors planning to make the same policy change - would presumably be motivated by adverse selection concerns in the administration of employer health plans.  Dependent verification is a valid front-and-center benchmark for many group insurance plans.  That said, is it fair to infer that there are also nefariously discriminatory motives for this kind of policy change?  Right or wrong, many folks will be looking askance.

The bottom line: In the long run, it may be nettlesome to reconcile past and established recognition of domestic-partner relationships with the social contract approved this year by the Supremes.