The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that makes same-sex marriage legal in every state has thrown a curveball to employers in terms of the treatment of domestic partner health care coverage. Now that marriage is a constitutional right for every individual, employers with domestic partner benefits may have to rethink their policies. The irony is that allowing any couple to wed might have the unintended consequence of taking away benefits from those couples preferring to remain single.
Two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Of those, 62 percent extend the benefits to workers with opposite-sex partners. However, some of the largest employers – including Delta Air Line, Verizon and IBM – have already rescinded domestic partner benefits to employees in states where same-sex marriage was legalized prior to the SCOTUS decision. It’s highly likely that others will follow suit with this latest ruling.
Because the Supreme Court did not address the effect of its ruling on employer group health plans, every employer will have to carefully consider its policies moving forward. One thing is for certain—the ruling will make it more likely that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will determine that an employer is discriminating if it offers employee group health coverage to opposite-sex spouses but not same-sex spouses. Now employers will have to determine whether they continue to offer benefits to unmarried domestic partners of either sex now that marriage is legal in all 50 states
As the definition of family continues to change, many employers will be looking for guidance about the benefit options they should be providing. Marsh & McLennan Agency formerly Benefits Resource Group can assist companies with weighing the pros and cons of keeping your current domestic partner policy or whether changes need to be made in light of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
Marsh & McLennan Agency formerly Benefits Resource Group can educate employers about their group health plan parameters and help determine if this ruling affects them. We encourage you to contact Ross W. Farro. Ross is a Principal with Marsh & McLennan Agency formerly Benefits Resource Group and specializes in assisting clients with group health insurance needs. You can contact Ross by phone at 216-393-1820 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.