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Can I add an unmarried partner to my health insurance plan?

Keep in mind...
  • Health insurance benefits are a huge incentive when applying for work
  • Same-sex marriages may or may not qualify for coverage
  • Tax laws are different for domestic partnerships and common law marriages

Health insurance benefits have been used by employers to attract a high-quality workforce. A lucrative health insurance package that covers employees and their families is an effective incentive for hard work and loyalty.

But in a country like America, where personal freedom is championed as an inalienable right, loving families take on many forms and appearances.

Employers and government agencies are increasingly broadening their benefit packages to embrace the lifestyles of more Americans, thus expanding the diversity in the workplace.

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Health Insurance Laws for Unmarried and Same Sex Couples

gay couple

Large number of private and government employers extend insurance coverage to incorporate common law marriages and domestic partnerships of same and opposite-sex couples.

Laws vary from state to state, so not every couple has the same support from legislators across the nation.

Same-sex marriages are legal in some states, and in other states such couples can register for civil unions and domestic partnerships.

In these states, couples enjoy some of the same benefits guaranteed to married couples. However, these rules often exclude opposite sex couples on the grounds that they already have the legal right to marry.

For example, state agencies in Alaska offer the same benefits to domestic partnerships that married public employees receive.

In 2005, that state’s Supreme Court ruled that government workers are able to add their unmarried spouses to their insurance policies.

Private companies in Alaska are not held to the same standard as government employers as a result of the ruling.

In Connecticut, same-sex unions are performed by the state, but common law marriages are not recognized. Therefore, an opposite sex spouse may not be able to receive benefits from a partner’s health insurer in some cases.

On the other hand, California has some of the broadest and most inclusive domestic partnership statutes.

Most state and local employees, as well as many workers in the private sector, are able to add their unmarried spouses to their policies in the Golden State.

There are many reasons why people choose to live together as a couple without the approval of a legal union by the state. Some wish to remain unwed to avoid negative consequences of pensions or tax statuses.

Many same-sex couples cannot be legally permitted to wed in many states. Others don’t feel the need to have the blessing of their government to strengthen their bond.

Whatever the reason may be for their personal decisions, public opinion and interpretation of equal protection laws are granting more couples permission to receive the same benefits as married persons.

Health Insurance Companies Hold the Cards

To protect themselves from fraud, health insurance companies have specific guidelines regarding the benefits for domestic partnerships and unmarried couples.

Conditions may require that the partner share the same address as the insured. To considered as a spouse, individuals cannot already be married and cannot be related to the policy holder.

Whether or not your health insurance company will allow the addition of an unmarried spouse is difficult to say definitively.

There are many factors that go into the final decision including the laws of the 50 states involved, the employer, the insurer and the policy itself.

If your partner can be added to your policy, there may still be a waiting period that delays coverage for a certain number of months.

Can I add a domestic partner as a dependent?


Even if your state doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships or common law marriages, it is possible to cover a domestic partner under your insurance policy by listing your spouse as a dependent.

As in most other cases, a lot will depend on the insurance company and the specifics of the policy.

Unless the term ‘domestic partner’ is used and defined by the insurance company, then your insurance company can easily prohibit coverage for a spouse of the same gender.

If there is a domestic partnership registry in any given state, the insurer and employer may require that same-sex couples are registered to provide evidence of the relationship.

Your health insurance company will also probably need a signed affidavit from you that satisfies the company’s definition of a spouse and establishes a history of a shared household.

In the eyes of an insurance company or employer, a domestic partner may be considered a dependent. However, the same cannot be said of the Internal Revenue Service.

For income tax purposes, a dependent must be a child or a qualifying relative, and domestic partners are specifically excluded.

Under the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, federal government agencies are prevented from recognizing any same-sex marriages that have taken place in the states of New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Vermont, and Iowa.

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