In its first guidance since the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down the Defense of Marriage Act this June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that it would be extending key Medicare benefits to same-sex married couples.
Married couples enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans (about 13 million people) are entitled to coverage for nursing-home residency in the same facility where their spouse resides. Until DOMA was overturned, that benefit had been denied to same-sex married couples, forcing them to either live in another nursing home or pay out-of-pocket to live in the same place as their spouse, according to HHS.
Now gay couples will be able to receive the same coverage as heterosexual ones, under the new HHS guidance.
“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.”
Under direction from the White House, all executive departments have been working with the U.S. Justice Deparment to revise their policies in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.