(Bloomberg) – Insurers participating in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) must cover same-sex married couples as families, the U.S. government said.
Separately, the government said a program for sick Americans who were denied insurance coverage before this year will be extended another month, through April.
The Obama administration is seeking to maximize insurance coverage ahead of a March 31 deadline to sign up for private plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as PPACA. The government has regularly adjusted the law’s rules, including a decision last week to allow people with health plans that pre-date PPACA to extend them through 2016. The decisions on married gay couples and the high-risk patient group are the latest such changes.
“Insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage,” Matthew Heinz, the director of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual outreach at HHS, said today in a blog post. “This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.”
A married gay couple in Ohio sued the state and federal government on Feb. 18 after they tried to buy a family policy through the federal health insurance exchange and were denied because Ohio doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, according to their complaint. Insurers offering family policies to a person with an opposite-sex spouse must also sell to someone whose spouse is of the same sex, regardless of whether the marriage is recognized by their state government, the Department of Health and Human Services said today.
About 4.2 million people signed up for new policies in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges through March 1, according to the government. There were about 114,000 married same-sex couples in the U.S. in 2011, according to the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation legal issues and public policy.