Gay Couples Less Likely to Have Access to Health Care Benefits

The Bureau of Labor Statistics added two questions about domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples to their National Compensation Survey, resulting in the first comprehensive count of domestic partner health care benefits by a federal government agency.  The survey revealed that only one-third of workers in the U.S. have access to health care for same-sex partners.

Among all U.S. employers, 31% provide coverage for unmarried opposite-sex partners, whereas only 21% of U.S. employers provide coverage for same-sex partners, regardless of their marriage status.  These discriminatory health care trends are not just evidenced in  those states where gay marriage is illegal.  Indeed, “even in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, only 71% of employers reported offering benefits to same-sex spouses in 2009, as opposed to 93% who give them to opposite-sex spouses.”

Because gay employees are less likely to receive health insurance for their partners than their counterparts in opposite-sex relationships, their families spend more on average for health insurance.  M.V. Lee Badgett, the research director of the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law told MSN that roughly 3 in 4 of those in same-sex partnerships obtain health care through purchasing additional health care for their partner from their employer.  She noted that “some may choose not to sign up their partners because of the higher tax hit or due to a fear that they will encounter discrimination at work if they disclose having a same-sex partner.”  For those couples that do not purchase additional insurance through an employer, some obtain individual plans, though an unsettling number of partners in same-sex relationships cannot find any affordable coverage.

The fact that many in same-sex partnerships lack access to insurance likely leads to lower-quality health care.  Even those in same-sex relationships who are lucky enough to be covered by an employer’s insurance have increased health risks.  If the partner whose employer provides health insurance loses that job, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (which allows individuals to continue their coverage for limited periods of time after the voluntary or involuntary loss of their jobs) does not extend to same-sex partners.

You can find out more about groups whose health is jeopardized as a result of discrimination here.

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