The Department of Health and Human Services announced today what it calls its “first guidance” since the Supreme Court’s historic DOMA decision changed the landscape for federal agencies. HHS, which oversees Medicare, has decided it will adopt the “place of celebration” standard when granting Medicare benefits to same-sex couples. If a you were married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, then you are entitled to benefits, no matter where you live.
Today’s guidance clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to all married couples.” Reads the HHS press release. ” The guidance specifically clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to couples who are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage,regardless of where they live.”
Also announced today is a plan to allow couples to stay together in what it calls “skilled nursing facilities”, commonly known as “nursing homes”. Under current rules, same-sex couples enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs often have to choose between being sent to a nursing facility away from their spouse, or disenrolling in their Medicare Advantage Insurance. The new policy will assure that same-sex couples are guaranteed the right to stay in the same nursing home as their spouse.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said upon releasing the new Medicare guideline:
“Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.”
While the new Medicare policy does not guarantee the Social Security Administration will soon adopt a similar “place of celebration” policy, it does raise hope that the SSA will take notice of the new Medicare guidelines and change their “temporary” policy to grant equal benefits to couples living in states where there marriages are not recognized. The SSA currently accepts such claims, but will not process them until their own policy on same-sex couples has been finalized.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.