November 1, 2013
Federal employees in same-sex domestic partnerships can now enroll their children in their government health care plan, the Office of Personnel Management has decided.
The final rule applies only in states in which same-sex marriage is illegal, as legally married same-sex spouses are already allowed to enroll their children in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. In compliance with the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the children can stay on their parents' insurance until they turn 26.
OPM originally proposed the rule prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a significant portion of the Defense of Marriage Act -- which defined marriage as between a man and a woman -- as unconstitutional. By defining the benefit as applicable to children of “domestic partners” rather than spouses, OPM was able to work around DOMA’s limitations.
Now that the marriage-defining portion of DOMA no longer applies, OPM amended its rule to apply only to states where same-sex marriage is unavailable.
“Only a minority of states currently permit same-sex marriage, and therefore, many same-sex couples do not have the same access to marriage that is available to opposite-sex couples,” OPM wrote. “Until marriage is available to same-sex couples in all 50 states, the extension of benefits to same-sex domestic partners will continue to play an important role in bridging the gap in legal treatment between same-sex and opposite-sex couples.”
OPM added it recognized the “landscape is rapidly changing” with regard to which states recognize same-sex marriage, so the agency will determine once per year the states in which domestic partners qualify to share their health benefits with their children.
Within days of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, OPM issued guidance granting federal employee benefits to all legally married same-sex spouses. Children of same-sex domestic partners can also now enroll in their parents’ Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
OPM noted it cannot yet extend benefits to the domestic partners themselves.
“Same-sex domestic partners are not encompassed within the statutory definition of member of family,” the agency wrote. “OPM is therefore without authority to extend coverage to domestic partners.”
November 1, 2013