KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

High Court’s DOMA Ruling Will Impact Health Benefits For Gay Couples

The decision will affect benefits for federal employees, as well as people eligible for new coverage under the health law, and will likely lead employers in the states that recognize same-sex marriages to review employee-benefit packages to make sure they don't discriminate against gay spouses and comply with the law.

The Washington Post: At Supreme Court, Victories For Gay Marriage
The divided court stopped short of a more sweeping ruling that the fundamental right to marry must be extended to gay couples no matter where they live. But in striking down a key part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the court declared that gay couples married in states where it is legal must receive the same federal health, tax, Social Security and other benefits that heterosexual couples receive (Barnes, 6/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Federal Rules, Taxes To Shift Due To Gay-Marriage Decision
Justice Anthony Kennedy's 5-4 opinion for the court noted a range of burdens gay couples faced under DOMA, "from the mundane to the profound." The invalidated law, he said, prevented married couples from obtaining government health-care benefits and raised their health-care costs by taxing health benefits that employers provide to workers' same-sex spouses. The law also deprived same-sex couples of more favorable consideration for student financial aid and denied them certain bankruptcy protections, Justice Kennedy said (Kendall and Saunders, 6/26).

NPR: How The End Of DOMA Will Affect Obamacare, Federal Employees
The Supreme Court's ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional will not only make a big difference in health benefits for some federal employees, it could also affect people who will be newly eligible for Obamacare beginning next year (Neel, 6/26).

The New York Times: Federal Court Speaks, But Couples Still Face State Legal Patchwork
Consider two women living at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., who travel to Maine to get married. When they get back to the base, the military will now recognize their marriage, affording them a variety of benefits that would go to any married couple, like health care and a housing allowance. But once they exit Keesler’s gates, they will find their marriage license means nothing to the state of Mississippi (Peters, 6/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Changes Loom For Employers
Wednesday's ruling now applies only to workers in the 12 states, plus the District of Columbia, that recognize gay marriage. Companies in those states will have to review their employee-benefit packages to make sure they don't discriminate against gay spouses and comply with the law, lawyers and benefits consultants said. … One of the biggest changes for married gay couples will be equal tax treatment of health-insurance premiums. Prior to the ruling, the value of a gay spouse's benefits coverage was treated as taxable income because he or she wasn't considered a spouse or dependent under federal law. By contrast, heterosexual couples paid for spousal benefits from pretax earnings. Now, in affected states, gay workers will enjoy the same tax status, potentially saving them thousands of dollars a year (Weber and Hofschneider, 6/26).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: The Feds Now Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriage. That Changes Obamacare.
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 (Kliff, 6/26).

The New York Times' Bucks Blog: How Supreme Court Decision Affects Gay Couples
Medicaid. Having a federally recognized marriage can help or hurt an individual when it comes to Medicaid programs, "or perhaps even some of both," said Vickie Henry, a senior staff lawyer at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. The fact that both spouses' incomes will be used to determine eligibility may hurt some couples. But if one spouse is in a nursing home or other long-term care institution, the couple may benefit from Medicaid's "spousal impoverishment" provisions. … Medicare. Individuals may be eligible for free Part A coverage, which generally covers hospital services and nursing homes, based on a spouse's earning record, according to the Medicare Rights Center. Married people may also be able to delay enrolling in Part B coverage, which covers things like preventative visits to the doctor, while a spouse is still working and for up to eight months afterward (Siegel Bernard, 6/26).

The Hill: DOMA Ruling Affects ObamaCare, Medicaid Eligibility
The Supreme Court's ruling Wednesday on the Defense of Marriage Act has big implications for healthcare benefits. The court struck down the central piece of DOMA, which said same-sex couples could not obtain federal benefits, even in states that recognize same-sex marriage (Baker and Viebeck, 6/26).

The Baltimore Sun: Doctors, Researchers Applaud Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Rules
In the hours after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down decisions in U.S. vs. Windsor and Hollingsworth vs. Perry, health groups chimed in support of the rulings -- and gay marriage. American Psychological Assn. president Donald Bersoff said in a statement Wednesday that the ruling in U.S. vs. Windsor, which in overturning a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act gives married gay couples equal access to the federal benefits that straight married couples receive, was "a triumph for social science and recognition of the basic dignity of all American citizens" (Brown, 6/26).

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