Same-Sex Couples Eligible for Medicare

Federal officials said same-sex couples may now apply for benefits under the federal program.

Same-sex marriage supporters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rights of married same-sex couples will come under scrutiny at the US Supreme Court on Wednesday in the second of two landmark cases being considered by the top judicial panel. After the nine justices mulled arguments on a California law that outlawed gay marriage on Tuesday, they will take up a challenge to the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The 1996 law prevents couples who have tied the knot in nine states -- where same-sex marriage is legal -- from enjoying the same federal rights as heterosexual couples. 
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Sophie Novack
April 3, 2014, 9:12 a.m.

Same-sex couples can now ap­ply for Medi­care be­ne­fits for the first time.

The Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment an­nounced Thursday that eli­gible in­di­vidu­als in same-sex mar­riages can ap­ply to the So­cial Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion for spe­cial en­roll­ment peri­ods for Medi­care Part A and Part B, and for re­duc­tions in pen­al­ties for late en­roll­ment.

The SSA is re­spons­ible for de­term­in­ing eli­gib­il­ity and en­rolling in­di­vidu­als in Medi­care, while the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices over­sees the fed­er­al pro­gram.

“Today’s an­nounce­ment helps to cla­ri­fy the ef­fects of the Su­preme Court’s de­cision and to en­sure that all mar­ried couples are treated equally un­der the law,” HHS Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us said in a state­ment. “We are work­ing to­geth­er with SSA to pro­cess these re­quests in a timely man­ner to en­sure all be­ne­fi­ciar­ies, re­gard­less of sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, are treated fairly un­der the law.”

The change fol­lows the June 2013 Su­preme Court de­cision that over­turned the De­fense of Mar­riage Act, which banned re­cog­ni­tion of same-sex mar­riage on a fed­er­al level. Medi­care is now able to re­cog­nize same-sex couples in de­term­in­ing eli­gib­il­ity for the pro­gram.

HHS said last month that in­surers in the private mar­ket must cov­er same-sex mar­ried couples in the same way as op­pos­ite-sex couples.


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