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Domestic Partnership Health Insurance

It’s easier than you might think to get health insurance for unmarried couples. Here’s everything you need to know about how to get it and how it differs from other health coverage.

Couple looks at documents

Adding your domestic partner to your health insurance is both doable and convenient. There are, however, some restrictions.

Not long ago, domestic partnerships were associated with same-sex couples. That’s no longer the case. Today, opposite-sex couples are just as likely to be in domestic partnerships.

Couples enter into domestic partnerships for all reasons, of course, but one of the most common is to share health insurance coverage.

You’ll learn all about domestic partner health insurance in this article. You’ll also learn about:

What Is Domestic Partner Health Insurance?

Domestic partner health insurance is health insurance that covers an insured person’s unmarried partner.

This unmarried partner can’t just be a boyfriend or girlfriend, however. In most cases, he or she needs to meet certain requirements. One example: the two of you must have lived together for at least six months.

If you and your domestic partner meet those requirements, though, the health insurance benefits you receive should match those provided to a legally married couple.

What Are the Benefits of Domestic Partnership Insurance?

The biggest benefit of domestic partnership insurance is it extends health coverage to an unmarried partner. It often extends health insurance coverage for children, too.

Another benefit of domestic partner coverage: it can help save money on health insurance. One insurance policy is usually cheaper than two insurance policies.

This isn’t always the case, though, so don’t assume it will be true for you and your partner. Shop around and compare quotes before you make any decisions.

What Does Domestic Partner Mean?

Most define domestic partnership as HealthCare.gov does: two people “who live together and share a domestic life.”

These two people can’t be related by blood, though. And they can’t be married or joined by a civil union – to each other or to anybody else.

Something to keep in mind here: the federal government doesn’t define domestic partnerships. That’s left up to individual states, counties, and cities.

Because of that, how your state or city defines domestic partnership might be quite different from how another state or city defines it.

Who Counts as a Domestic Partner?

In most states, a domestic partnership is two people who are in a committed relationship and who share a residence as well as at least some financial responsibilities.

To find out if and how your city, county, or state recognizes domestic partnerships, contact the government agency that issues marriage licenses. Someone there should be able to help.

Do Health Insurance Companies Have to Cover Domestic Partners?

Only if local law requires insurance companies to cover domestic partners. If it doesn’t, they don’t need to provide this kind of coverage.

Many insurers do offer domestic partner health coverage, though, so don’t give up if you’re having a hard time finding one that does. Contact several insurance companies and ask about it. Check out the government health insurance marketplace, too.

Do Employers Have to Offer Domestic Partner Health Insurance?

If they’re located in an area that requires employers to offer domestic partner health insurance, then yes. Otherwise, no, private employers don’t have to provide domestic partner insurance benefits.

The good news here is that many employers cover domestic partners even if local laws don’t require them to do so.

Do You Need to Show Proof of Domestic Partnership to Get Domestic Partner Insurance?

You may have to prove you’re in a domestic partnership to get domestic partner health insurance.

Whether you do or don’t need to prove it often depends on the employer – if you get health coverage from a job – or the insurance company.

If you must prove it, here are some of the things you might have to do to get health insurance for your partner:

  • Show you’re registered domestic partners in your city, county, or state
  • Sign a form or affidavit that certifies your relationship
  • Provide documentation that proves the two of you share the same address, own property together, have joint bank or credit card accounts, and more

Not all employers or insurers make you prove your domestic partnership, but it’s not unheard of.

How Do You Add a Domestic Partner to a Health Insurance Plan?

Because this differs from employer to employer, and insurer to insurer, the only advice to give here is to ask someone in the know for specifics.

If you get health insurance through an employer, ask someone in human resources if your plan covers domestic partners. And if it does, how can you add a domestic partner to your plan?

If you get health coverage directly from an insurance company, ask your agent, broker, or a customer service representative those same questions.

Assuming your employer or insurer allows it, adding a domestic partner to a health plan should be easy enough. The biggest hurdle you might have to overcome is proving your partnership.

How Do I Find Domestic Partner Insurance?

The best way to find domestic partner health insurance is to shop around. Contact a number of insurance companies and ask if they cover domestic partners. Then compare quotes from those that do offer this coverage.

Don’t forget to check out the marketplace set up by the Affordable Care Act or ACA in this situation. Many marketplace plans cover domestic partners just like many employer plans do.

Does Domestic Partner Health Insurance Cover Children?

In most cases, yes. If an employer or insurance company extends health coverage to a domestic partner, they should provide health insurance for children , too.

Also, they should cover not just biological children, but stepchildren and adopted children as well.

If this isn’t clear when you go to fill out the paperwork for your domestic partner coverage, ask for clarity.

Is Domestic Partner Health Insurance the Same as Other Health Insurance?

In general, domestic partner health insurance is just like health insurance you’d get if you were married.

One of the only differences between the two is that you might pay more to cover a domestic partner than you would to cover someone you married. Not in terms of premiums, but in terms of health insurance taxes.

According to Nolo, if your employer provides domestic partner health benefits, “the premium paid to cover the domestic partner will be considered taxable income.” This is a far cry from how things work for married couples. In that situation, the government considers the premium paid to cover the spouse a pre-tax deduction from income.

This is why it’s sometimes cheaper to buy separate health insurance coverage for a domestic partner than it is to add them to an existing plan.

What Can I Do If My Employer Doesn't Provide Domestic Partner Benefits?

Your first step should be to ask them to change their minds. They can provide these benefits if they want, and studies suggest it won’t cost them much at all to do it.

If your employer says no, consider offering to pay your partner’s premiums. These plans often are cheaper than the ones you can buy directly from an insurance company. They tend to provide better coverage, too.

And if that doesn’t work? Start shopping around. Find a handful of companies that cover domestic partners and then compare rates to get the best deal.

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