Gay Spouses Have Equal Access To Nursing Facilities Through Medicare, HHS Memo States

From On Top:

Carlos Santoscoy
Published: August 29, 2013

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday issued a memo clarifying that gay spouses have equal access to skilled nursing facilities through Medicare Advantage.

The policy change comes two months after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

“HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “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.”

As of Thursday, private companies that contract with Medicare to cover services offered in a skilled nursing facility must provide equally coverage to all legally married couples, regardless of whether the state that they live in allows gay couples to marry.

“Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”

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