Personnel agency opens long-term care to same-sex partners

The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday took another step toward expanding benefits for the partners of gay and lesbian federal employees by finalizing a regulation that makes them eligible for long-term care insurance.

The final rule is the same as a September 2009 draft version. It broadens the definition of relatives qualified to participate in the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program to include the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees, U.S. Postal Service workers and retirees. Currently, only spouses, parents and adult children are eligible for coverage.

OPM noted the 51 comments it received on the proposed rule were 3 to 1 in favor of the expansion, which implements a June 2009 presidential memorandum asking that government do as much as it can legally to put same-sex domestic partners on equal footing with heterosexual married couples. Opening up the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to partners would require legislation.

The personnel agency rejected several recommended changes to the draft rule, including requests to grant opposite-sex domestic partners access to long-term care as well. Opposite-sex partners have the option of getting married if they want to qualify for federal benefits, OPM said.

Other comments focused on the process for proving domestic partner status. OPM said it will not require any extra documentation from same-sex couples, because doing so would "impose a greater burden on domestic partners than other qualified relatives."

The final rule takes effect on July 1.

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