LGBT Insurance Bill Proposed

If it passes, same-sex partners would be covered if unemployed

Times are tough. That’s why democrats Anthony Weiner of New York and Barbara Boxer of California introduced new legislation that would cover the partners of same-sex couples who are unemployed. Called the Equal Access to COBRA Act, the Senate will consider the bill this year (it’s the second time Boxer has introduced the measure in the Senate and the first time it’s being introduced in the House).

“All of our families deserve equal access to health insurance,” said Boxer in a statement. “This bill would help ensure that domestic partners and their families will be able to keep their health coverage if their partner loses their job.”

According to the Washington Blade, the legislation would only affect companies that are required to provide health coverage under the 1985 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which was signed into law by Ronald Reagan to give employees access to health coverage after departing their jobs.

Currently, COBRA mandates that employees, their spouses and dependent children can continue their health coverage, usually at their own expense. This bill would ensure that other beneficiaries would have the equal ability to obtain continuation coverage, as well as subsidies Congress has recently enacted to assist families with the cost of using COBRA benefits.

Under federal law, employers must offer continuing healthcare coverage to departing employees and their families for up to 36 months. But the law does not apply to domestic partners or same-sex spouses, even at companies that offer health coverage to domestic partners of employees. The legislation would amend the federal law to allow equal access to COBRA coverage to all individuals, including domestic partners that are already defined by the employer’s health insurance plan.

“In these troubled economic times, social safety-net benefits like COBRA continuation coverage are even more important to American families,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a statement. “Hundreds of employers, including more than half of the Fortune 500, already extend health benefits to the domestic partners of their employees as a matter of fairness as well as good business practice. LGBT people should have the equal ability to maintain those critical benefits for their families during difficult times.”