A lot still needs to be sorted out, but here are some quotes from experts on how the U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the federal government to recognize gay marriage impacts healthcare benefits. The ruling only applies to states that have legalized gay marriage. But the rainbow genii is out of the bottle, and all I can say is it’s about time.
Aon Hewitt: “Under the ruling, employees will have expanded access to employer-sponsored health and retirement benefits, depending on plan design, in the 12 states and District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriage. This includes…Health Savings and Flexible Spending Accounts… COBRA continuation coverage…HIPAA special enrollment rights…Ability to pay for health benefits with pre-tax dollars and receive an employer contribution towards a same-sex spouse’s coverage without being taxed on such coverage (also referred to as taxation on “imputed” income).”
The Williams Institute: “Same-sex couples working in the private sector pay, on average, $1000 more than different-sex couples in taxes for employer-sponsored healthcare. Same-sex spouses in federally recognized marriages might no longer be subject to this additional tax burden….Same-sex spouses of federal employees could be eligible for employee benefits that are currently provided to employees with different-sex spouses.
Sarah Kliff, The Washington Post: “With the United States recognizing same-sex marriage, a same-sex couple can be counted by the federal government as one family unit. Instead of two separate individuals applying for health benefits, each judged by the federal poverty line for one person, they’re now a team. Their federal poverty line is $15,510.”
Jackson Hewitt Tax Service: “Same-sex partners with similar incomes may lose out. For example, same-sex partners who each have an income of $40,000 may be eligible for the premium assistance tax credits under the ACA – but only if they remain single. If they marry (in those states that allow same-sex marriage), then they would lose eligibility because their income would be over the threshold for a household of two.”
However, Brian Haile, senior vice president for healthcare policy at Jackson Hewitt, notes that same-sex couples with disparate incomes may gain. In the example he provides, “one member of the household make zero and the other makes $60,000. If they live in a state that does not expand Medicaid, then the person that makes zero wouldn’t be eligible for Medicaid and wouldn’t be eligible for the tax credit. The person who makes $60,000 would not be eligible for the tax credit. If they got married, they would both be eligible for the tax credit.”
President Obama: Politics Now reports, “The federal government should broadly interpret its laws to guarantee benefits to the maximum number of same-sex married couples, President Obama said, as he praised the Supreme Court decision.”