Traditional marriage is no longer the only way committed couples choose to spend their lives together and legislation and insurance companies are working to catch up.
The National Conference of State Legislatures provides an updated list of domestic partnership legislation by state.
Whether couples are different sex or same sex, the number of unmarried individuals who choose to cohabitate climbs annually and these individuals are looking to establish the same rights and benefits assured their married counterparts.
“People are choosing to establish a household together and live together for whatever the reasons are without having what we think of as a traditional marriage arrangement. That’s just a fact of life,” said John Gaglione, president of GBSA, and a member of the National Association of Health Underwriters, where he currently serves on the national membership committee.
Gaglione, who has worked in the insurance industry since 1974, said in the past, legislation regarding providing health insurance was designed to recognize only spousal situations. Today, as legislation changes to adjust to the rising trend, insurance coverage for domestic partners is becoming more readily available.
In some states, companies are adapting to meet new legislative requirements for coverage. In others, some businesses are voluntarily offering domestic partner coverage to their employees to help retain the best workers.
“Generally, larger companies have been the first to offer the benefits where not required by law, though some smaller firms offer domestic partner benefits as well,” Gaglione said.
Susan Pisano, vice president of communications with the not-for-profit group America’s Health Insurance Plans (ACLI) in Washington D.C., notes that while in some cases changes are driven by legislation, the choice to provide domestic partner coverage is rooted in business.
“The decision in most instances whether to cover domestic partners or not is made by employers,” she said.
“Anybody can designate a beneficiary on a life insurance policy that they mutually agree upon,” Gaglione said. A partner could not obtain a policy without the other person’s consent, but that is no different than the requirements for married couples.
Individuals (regardless of their relationship status) may take out a life insurance policy on mutual consent after meeting the underwriters requirements for qualification such as an insurable interest like future income or business.
Major Health insurance companies that offer domestic partner benefits
BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD
NEW YORK LIFE AND HEALTH
GREAT WEST LIFE
OXFORD HEALTH PLANS
Source: Fortune Magazine
Top Fortune 500 Companies that offer domestic partner benefits
METHODIST HOSPITAL SYSTEM
Source: Fortune Magazine