Clock is Ticking to Get Insurance for Spouse/Partner in DC
July 30, 2009
If you live in D.C. you may have a limited opportunity to cover your spouse or partner through insurance at work. Read on... As you have probably heard, Washington, D.C. has a new law providing for recognition of marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into outside the District. D.C. also recently enacted a law recognizing, as domestic partnerships in the District, relationships legally entered into outside D.C. that are “substantially similar” to domestic partnerships in D.C.—for instance, civil unions in New Jersey, or domestic partnerships in Oregon. These new laws give same-sex couples married or partnered outside the District immediate access to hundreds of rights and responsibilities in D.C. For one thing, if you’re married or partnered outside D.C., you may be able to cover your spouse or partner through insurance plans offered by your employer. The one catch is that you have to act very quickly if you want to get coverage for your spouse or partner this year. Depending on the language of your employer’s plan, it is likely that you have just 30 days from the date the laws went into effect to take action. If you don’t act during that period, you won’t be able to add coverage for your spouse or partner until the next “open enrollment” period. The marriage recognition law went into effect July 7, 2009. The partnership recognition law went into effect July 18, 2009. If you live or work in the District and are legally married somewhere else (in another state or country that recognizes marriage for same-sex couples) or have legally entered into a domestic partnership or civil union somewhere else, you may want to check with your employer, right away, about adding insurance coverage for your spouse. Note that if you got married or entered into a domestic partnership or civil union outside D.C. after July 7 (for a marriage) or after July 18 (for a civil union/domestic partnership), or if you do so in the future, the clock won’t start running for you until the date you married or entered into a civil union/domestic partnership. We were concerned that guidance initially issued to insurance providers by the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) did not make clear that spouses and partners can be added to insurance coverage now. We’re pleased to say that, when we brought this to DISB’s attention, they quickly took action to clarify the guidance they are providing. A revised bulletin will be made available on DISB’s website shortly, and we suggest that you review the information once it is available since it may be necessary to provide your employer with this document so they understand what needs to be done, and when. DISB also tells us that they want to know if you are having trouble getting a spouse or partner added to your insurance plan. We’re glad that they are taking such an active interest in making sure that the new laws are followed. If you are having trouble or have any questions about any of this, please contact [email protected] or contact DISB. More information on marriage and the workplace is available in our document "Marriage for Same-Sex Couples: Considerations for Employers."