The largest insurer in Alabama is now required to comply with a federal rule to treat all married couples equally.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, the largest health insurance company in the state, is now offering spousal coverage to same sex couples that are legally married, so that the insurer will comply with a federal regulation that states that all married couples must be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation.
A spokesperson for the insurance company said that the same sex spousal coverage started being offered this year.
The spokesperson, Koko Mackin, indicated that the same sex spousal health insurance coverage started to be offered for plans that were underwritten in early 2014, “in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ regulations that prohibit health insurers from discriminating in health plan coverage on the basis of sexual orientation.” At the moment, gay marriage is banned within the Alabama Constitution, and the state does not currently recognize same sex marriages.
However, federal guidelines were released in March by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that underscored the recognition of a marriage of a same sex couple if it took place in a state that currently authorizes gay marriage. The HHS stated that same sex couples married in states where those marriages are authorized are entitled to the same insurance coverage as their heterosexual counterparts.
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The rule states that if a health insurance companies offers coverage for married couples, that must include all legal marriages.
Mackin went on to explain that under the federal regulation “if a health insurer offers coverage for opposite-sex spouses, then the insurer must also offer coverage to same-sex spouses that are legally married in any state regardless of the state of residence.” In March, the Obama Administration urged insurance companies to comply voluntarily. That said, it becomes a requirement for all insurers starting on January 1, 2015, according to the guidelines from the HHS.
At the time this article was written, Alabama Department of Insurance spokesperson, Mark Fowler, had stated that the department was presently unaware of how many health insurance companies within the state were already offering spousal coverage to legally married same sex coverage.