Must employers extend health insurance to unmarried partners?

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/01/2011

Not necessarily. It depends on a couple of factors. According to the Council for Affordable Health insurance, 18 states require employer-sponsored group health insurance plans to cover domestic partners. But these state laws do not apply to employers that self-insure.

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Most large companies are self-insured, which means instead of paying premiums to an insurer to cover employees' health care, the companies fund their own insurance plans and pay the claims themselves. These companies generally pay a benefits company to administer the plans. Self-insured companies are regulated by federal law rather than state law.

So if your employer is self-insured or you don't live in a state that mandates group plans to cover domestic partners, your employer doesn't have to extend benefits to domestic partners even if it offers benefits to spouses.

Employers extend health insurance coverage

Still, a growing number of employers have extended coverage to domestic partners in the last decade. Ask your employer's human resources department about its policies. If your employer offers coverage to unmarried partners, ask what you need to do enroll your partner in the health plan. Keep in mind you might need to provide documentation to show proof of the relationship, such as a joint lease or mortgage.

Meanwhile, do your homework during open enrollment to make sure you choose the right health plan for you--and if your employer allows it--your partner. If your employer offers a choice of plans, review your current coverage and health care usage and compare the features and costs of the plans.

For more, see "Tips for health insurance open enrollment."

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