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.