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Life Health > Health Insurance > Your Practice

Same-Sex Insurance Coverage Breaks New Ground with OPM Order

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The case of coverage for same-sex couples could now soon reach the coding departments of insurance companies. Or at least one, in one instance so far, while the Administration and Republicans search for some equilibrium or rule of law under the questioned constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). One agency appears to be following President’s Obama’s position  of abandonment of the defense of the 1996 Act.

In a letter to William Breskin, vice president of government programs at the Blue Cross Shield Association, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) told the insurer to begin enrollment expeditiously and retroactively for Amy C. Cunninghis, the wife of Karen Golinksi, under a court order from the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

The order was dated Feb. 22, so coverage would be retroactive to that date. The OPM letter was signed March 9 by Shirley Patterson, assistant director at OPM’s Federal Employee Insurance Operations.

However, the OPM cautioned that the ruling is limited only to the specific couple and “has no effect on enrollments requested by other same-sex spouses.” Moreover, the case is going on and has been appealed by House Republicans. Other cases against OPM are pending as well. However, the U.S. Justice Department is asking for a speedy review of the case, which is reviewing DOMA’s constitutionality on one coast, San Francisco, while the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the entire healthcare reform act on the other, in Washington today.

OPM had prevented coverage for Golinski’s wife under DOMA, and Golinksi had sued. The couple married in California and Golinski is a lawyer employed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

As the Washington Post reported earlier, OPM had refused through January to obey a federal judge’s administrative order telling the agency to rescind a directive to Blue Cross Blue Shield, that said her spouse is not eligible to receive benefits, not because it wanted to but because it felt it needed to abide by DOMA.

“…the President of the United States has made the determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, i as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment,” the Justice Department told Hosue Speaker John Boehner in February 2011.

“When I sought to add Amy to my existing family health plan, I was seeking the same type of security that my married heterosexual colleagues enjoy. The day has now arrived, and we are breathing a huge sigh of relief. Although health insurance cannot protect any of us from illness or injury, it provides a powerful safety net. Amy and I are so grateful to Judge White for recognizing the unconstitutionality of DOMA and the resulting harm and inequality it has brought to gay and lesbian families,” Golinski said in a statement emailed through Lamda Legal.

A BCBSA spokeswoman stated, The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Government-wide Service Benefit Plan, also known as the Federal Employee Program (FEP), to enroll Ms. Golinski’s spouse as of Feb. 22, 2012, and indicated that this directive applies only to the enrollment of Ms. Golinski’s spouse and does not extend to other same-sex spouse enrollment requests

The insurance forms recoding is the easy part—it is expected to take five days.


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