Health care policies may need to be amended for same-sex couples

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Now that hundreds of same-sex couples have said ‘I do,’ questions are being raised about employee health benefits and other rights married couples enjoy.

Marriage is one of those qualifying life events, meaning you can change your insurance and benefits needs when it happens, rather than having to wait until open enrollment.

With more than 300 newlywed same-sex couples in Indianapolis alone, employers are bound to see those requests pretty quickly.

Kari and Dawn Haecker said their vows Thursday at the Marion County Clerk’s Office in front of friends and their son. 24-Hour News 8′s Nina Criscuolo asked them if they’re looking forward to sharing benefits now.

“Oh, I wonder how that’s going to change?” Dawn Haecker said.

It’s a question a lot of newlyweds are asking.

“My employer does not offer partnership benefits, but I guess if this does go through they’ll have to offer her benefits now, that would be great. That would save quite a bit of money,” Dawn said.

“That’s one of the things that would happen right after getting married is that they would take a look at their medicare needs and insurance needs and sign them up,” labor and employment attorney Michael Moffatt said.

He immediately started contacted his clients through the Littler Mendelson law firm in Indianapolis after the ruling Wednesday.

“I would probably be proactive and change my policies to reflect what’s coming,” Moffatt said.

Moffatt says employers with only Indiana workers may need to amend their policies, especially if they specifically refer to a married couple as husband and wife, but he says the timeline to do that is unclear and employers could refuse.

“They could always say no, the risk is facing litigation,” Moffatt said.

It’s a move Moffatt wouldn’t advise, even while waiting on a potential stay or appeal. And as the marriage licenses continue to be issued, these couples say they’re ready to be treated as an equal with health and benefits rights as well.

“A lot of those little things that people don’t think about are going to make a big difference now,” said Hope Daniels who married her partner of five years on Thursday.

“Obviously there’s a lot of financial benefits, but just being the same as everybody else, it’s nice,” Kari Haecker said.

LHD Benefit Advisors’ guide on same-sex marriages and employee benefits is below:

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