Benefits and Compensation

Same-Sex Marriages Legally Recognized: How Do Healthcare Benefits Change?

With the DOMA ban on same-sex marriage being ruled unconstitutional, what does this mean for healthcare benefits—will a same-sex marriage be recognized in the same way as other marriages, thus allowing the same-sex partner to receive spousal healthcare benefits paid for at the pre-tax rate?

This is just one of the many questions employers are now facing as we await additional rulings and clarifications in the wake of the DOMA ruling earlier in the year. We know that sweeping changes are coming, and healthcare benefits are likely just the start.

Same-Sex Marriage and Healthcare Benefits: Tax Advantage?

Let’s take a look at salary reductions for health plan coverage as it was before the DOMA ruling (United States vs. Windsor).

“Before the Windsor decision, the general rule was that a same-sex spouse . . . certainly did not qualify as a spouse for purposes of federal law, and unless they were a tax-dependent of the employee, the amounts that were being withheld from employee pay to provide coverage to that same-sex spouse under a benefit plan could not be pre-tax, and therefore there had to be some imputed income tax the employee to make up for [or] convert that [pre-tax deduction] to post-tax coverage.” Jason P. Lacey explained in a recent BLR webinar.

With the Windsor ruling, this withholding will now be allowed on a pre-tax basis and then spent on a benefit, just as it would be for the healthcare of any other spouse. There will no longer be a need to calculate the imputed income as was done before. In fact, children of a same-sex spouse should be covered too, without regard to dependency, because they will count as step-children.

We don’t know yet whether this situation will prompt insurers to be obliged to allow same-sex spouses to enroll in the benefit plan outside of the open enrollment period (i.e. we don’t know if this will be considered a “change in status event” since the same-sex marriage was not previously recognized).

Same-Sex Marriage and Healthcare Benefits: General Considerations

Healthcare benefits will be affected in many ways, and employers are already wondering what to do while awaiting further federal guidance. In same-sex marriage states, employers should review and revise plans, as necessary, to ensure plans do not discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex married couples.

In states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, employers may wish to voluntarily revise plans to provide equal coverage for spouses married in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage.

In any case, employers should monitor federal agency guidance regarding same-sex marriage rules.

“The Windsor decision does not say either for employers in same-sex marriage states or employers in non-same-sex marriage states—the case doesn’t really say that those employers are or are not required to provide benefits to same-sex spouses. There clearly is sort of a trend (particularly with the language in the Windsor decision out there) toward equalization of those types of relationships.

“Employers need to continually be on the lookout for guidance on those sort of issues and thinking about what they want to be doing for their workforce in a way that provides for equality and provides for a competitive advantage and all those sorts of things that you’re thinking about when you’re designing an employee benefit plan.” Lacey noted.

For more information on the healthcare benefit implications for same-sex marriages, order the webinar recording of “Employee Benefits: How the Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling Will Impact FMLA Obligations, Healthcare Coverage, and More.” To register for a future webinar, visit

Jason P. Lacey, a partner with Foulston Siefkin LLP, in Kansas practices primarily in the areas of employee benefits, ERISA, and executive compensation. Mr. Lacey has written on the DOMA case for

2 thoughts on “Same-Sex Marriages Legally Recognized: How Do Healthcare Benefits Change?”

  1. It’s interesting how some of the “cutting edge” companies, like tech companies, that want to attract younger employees are offering these benefits regardless of whether they’re legally required to. It seems that they’ve determined the advantages outweigh the costs.

    1. Let me ask YOU a question: If a guy duempd you because he was just looking for a quick and easy lay and you didn’t provide that to him, then would that be a good thing or a bad thing? The RIGHT guy would wait, the RIGHT guy would understand, the RIGHT guy would be patient, because it is true, Good things come to those who wait. If you meet a guy that you really do like and you’re out with him on your 2nd or 3rd date (wouldn’t get to those dates if there wasn’t some mutual interest and attraction), then simply be open and honest with him. Tell him that you’re looking for more than just sex and that you want to get to know a guy first. You can always add, I’ve really enjoyed our time together and I really like you and I’d like to continue seeing you and see where things might lead. AND when it comes to romantic love between a man and a woman, well . it usually always and eventually DOES lead to the bedroom, but all in good time. Trust me, if you say these things to a guy, then he’ll interpret as this, I’m going to get laid. Okay, maybe not THAT night, but there’s a real good possibility that the guy WILL get laid. It might be in a few weeks or a month (or whatever), but as long as that carrot is dangled out there.. the RIGHT guy will wait.I’m a guy and I’ve done the internet dating thing off and on for probably . well .. since they’ve had it AND I’ve never been the kind of guy who ever pushed a woman to do anything that she didn’t really want to do or was not comfortable in doing. I wouldn’t even mention anything in my email correspondence to a lady about getting together or make any suggestions about us meeting in person, let alone exchanging phone numbers. I’d wait until the lady felt comfortable enough to make the suggestion herself. Usually after phone numbers exchanged and a few phone calls, then both parties might begin to get a little anxious to meet in person.I’m afraid that there are MANY men out trolling the online dating sites just looking for women to bed and they aren’t really interested in anything serious OR they’re confused, chilidish, and immature and don’t really know what they want, so they listen to a part of themselves that they shouldn’t (I stopped listening to him, well mostly since I was 25) OR mostly they are just not the one for you and not even worthy of a second date (let alone the first). Let me actually be blunt and honest, there are a lot of men out there who are just plain old rotten stinking PIGS! Some of the emails women have shared with me that they’ve received from other men, well let’s just say that a lot of men are pigs, but do you want a pig?Too often in my life I have met someone, fallen for them (and they for me), known them a VERY short time (sometimes hours or just a day or two) and then shared the most intimate of physical encounters that a human can experience and share with another . and I didn’t even know their last name or the names of their kids (or if they had any), or who they really were. I didn’t even know if I liked this person, yet here I was making love to them? I’m a very open and honest person and somewhere there is a very big contradiction.How can you make love to someone you don’t even know or know if you truly even like?My perfect dating situation or experience would be to meet a lady who a really liked and was attracted to (got to have that) and with whom I shared time, experiences, thoughts, dreams, and beliefs AND who became my best friend first and then became my lover.I’m not old fashioned by any means, but I think our divorce rate would be much lower and our overall life and love fulfillment would be much greater, if we DID take a step back in time with our courtship process. That is one of the reasons I kind of like the online dating opportunities, because it gives you a chance to truly get to know someone first. I guess I can say that because I think of myself as a fairly decent communicator and I can type way too dang fast. The process just harkens me back to the days of Percy Shelley and Lord Byron the Romantics. There was a time when a man and a woman would begin a courtship from afar through the slow exchange of long letters. But, it is when you are alone with pen and paper in hand (or keyboard and screen in front of you) that you can truly be open and honest in that anonymous way that such correspondence does provide.Of course the greatest love of all is the love that is inside of you and sweetie you’ve got to love yourself enough to know that you are more than worth the wait. If a guy isn’t willing to wait or is looking for something else, well Hit the road, Jack . SillyLittleBoy

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