OPM expands affinity benefits for same-sex domestic partners

Same-sex domestic partners of federal employees will have expanded access to health care coverage next year, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

OPM late last month announced an average 3.5 percent premium increase for Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plans in 2012, along with additional plans that will provide coverage for participants' same-sex domestic partners. Currently, only five plans offer this option.

While these choices won't be part of FEHBP and could provide more limited benefits, domestic partners will be able to enroll on their own and pay all premium costs. According to OPM, the coverage offered is generally at the individual as opposed to a group rate, and the terms and conditions of enrollment are not subject to OPM review.

The following plans will offer affinity benefits in 2012:

  • Aetna
  • Altius (Idaho, Utah, Wyo.)
  • Dean Health Plan (Wis.)
  • Health Net of Arizona
  • HealthPartners (Iowa, Minn., N.D., S.D., Wis.)
  • Kaiser
  • KPS Health Plan (Wash.)
  • PacifiCare of California
  • PacifiCare of Texas
  • Piedmont Community Healthcare (Va.)
  • United Healthcare of the Midwest (Ill., Mo.)
  • United Healthcare of the River Valley (Ill., Iowa)

The law currently prohibits the government from offering full domestic partner benefits, but one union leader suggests that OPM can take steps to provide health coverage without legal ramifications.

Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, last month suggested that OPM establish a fund to compensate employees who have applied for FEHBP or the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program coverage for their same-sex spouse but have been denied due to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

The benefit would provide direct reimbursement in the amount of the difference between the out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses incurred and the amount the same-sex spouse would have paid if he or she had been covered by the federal government, Junemann said.

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