As you’ve surely heard by now, the U.S. Supreme Court declared on June 26 that the Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to marry, even if they’re marrying a person of the same sex.
This means not only that each and every state now has to allow same-sex couples to get married while within their boundaries, but also that they have to recognize marriages between same-sex couples that were legally performed in states, territories, or jurisdictions outside of the ones they usually call home.
The gay and lesbian community and its supporters celebrated the long-anticipated 5-to-4 ruling for all kinds of obvious reasons, with one of them being that it brought so-called “gay marriage” to the 13 states that continued to ban the practice. (Prior to the Supreme Court’s most recent decision on the matter, the other 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, had embraced such unions in fits and spurts as a result of various court decisions, legislative actions, and popular votes.)
A slew of additional reasons have popped up in the wake of that momentous ruling, however; a good number of which relate to many of the financial issues that married couples of all stripes generally have to concern themselves with, including Social Security benefits, retirement planning, estate taxes, and, of course, insurance coverage.
Speaking of the latter, here are some of the burning questions that same-sex couples who are planning to get legally hitched (or whose past trip down the proverbial aisle now will be recognized) are likely to ponder now that marriage equality is the law of the land (as well as answers to each of them):
Will my spouse and I be able to save money on car insurance now that we’re legally married?
In almost all situations, the answer here should be “yes.”
According to various sources, you should pay about 10 percent less for auto insurance as someone’s legally recognized “significant other” than you would have paid when you were unmarried. (Apparently married people file fewer claims than their single counterparts, which in and of itself saves insurers money, of course, but it also seems to indicate to these companies that the former group of citizens are safer drivers than the latter.)
All of the above should hold true even if you and your spouse have your own separate car insurance policies, by the way. That said, it’s possible you’ll shave even more money off of your premiums if you and your husband or wife are on the same policy.
So, if you’re about to get married, or if you just got married, or even if you’ve been married for a while now but until this moment you weren’t aware of the fact you and your spouse could pay less for the auto coverage you already own, you should call your insurance carrier and see if you could benefit from combining policies.
If the person on the other end of the line tells you it won’t help to make such a move, shop around and compare quotes from a number of other insurance companies to see if that could save you some cash.
How does the recent Supreme Court ruling impact health insurance benefits for spouses in same-sex marriages?
For starters, it depends on where you get your health insurance. If you get it from an employer, as most Americans do, you’re very likely now going to be able to take advantage of the “spousal benefits” heterosexual couples have had access to for ages.
This is a big deal for a lot of gay and lesbian couples, as before the Supreme Court made it possible for same-sex couples to get married no matter where they are in the U.S., the most many men and women in this kind of situation could hope for when it came to extending their health insurance coverage to their significant other were domestic partner benefits, which were taxed as income to the employee. (Traditional spousal coverage, on the other hand, is offered on a tax-free basis.)
All that said, there may be times when same-sex couples who are legally married won’t be provided access to this sort of coverage. One example: some companies have decided, for various reasons, to stop offering spousal benefits altogether in recent years. If that’s the case where you work, your spouse won’t be able to rely on your employer-provided health care (although neither will the opposite-gender spouses of any of your colleagues).
What if the company I work for handles its own insurance?
Businesses that are self-insured aren’t constrained by the same laws as those that use third-party insurance companies to fund their benefits programs—which unfortunately means that they’re not obliged to extend health coverage to any of their staffers’ same-sex spouses.
Thankfully, this isn’t a situation that should pop up for many gay and lesbian couples who decide to get married, as most experts suggest that self-insured companies that choose to deny these benefits to the same-gender husbands or wives of their employees will leave themselves open to being sued on the grounds of discrimination.
One thing you and your bride or groom shouldn’t have to worry about in this regard is being turned down for spousal health coverage due to some sort of religious objection on the part of one of your employers.
The only options available to businesses that have such objections are to stop extending health insurance benefits to all of their hires’ spouses, as mentioned earlier, or to start insuring themselves and then limit spousal coverage to heterosexual couples.
And if I get my health insurance through a state or federal marketplace or exchange?
According to healthcare.gov, any insurance company that provides health coverage to opposite-sex spouses must do the same for same-sex spouses.
“As long as a couple is married in a jurisdiction with legal authority to authorize the marriage, an insurance company can’t discriminate against them when offering coverage. This means that it must offer to same-sex spouses the same coverage it offers to opposite-sex spouses,” the site informs visitors before adding that “this is true regardless of the state where the couple lives, the insurance company is located, [or] the plan is sold, issued, renewed, or in effect.”
The government also makes it clear to married gay and lesbian couples that its “health insurance marketplace” treats them “the same as married opposite-sex couples when they apply for premium tax credits and lower out-of-pocket costs on private insurance plans.”
Also, it may interest you to know that a same-gender couple may be eligible for premium tax credits on these marketplace plans “as long as the taxpayer and spouse file a joint federal tax return for the year they’re getting coverage. Married couples must file jointly in order to be eligible for tax credits, regardless of gender.”
What does all of this mean for people who are in domestic partnerships? Does anything change for us when it comes to health insurance coverage?
As was mentioned earlier, beginning in the 1980s, a number of companies offered what generally was referred to as “domestic partnership benefits” to their gay and lesbian employees so their unmarried partners would be able to make use of the same health insurance coverage as the legally recognized spouses of their heterosexual cohorts.
Many businesses extended this coverage to all of their employees’ unmarried domestic partners, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, this kind of coverage may soon be phased out thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling. This is most likely to happen at companies or organizations that only offer domestic partnership benefits to gay or lesbian employees and their significant others, due in large part to the fact that those couples are now able to legally marry.
That said, many experts in this area believe that most, or at least some, businesses that have long provided domestic partnership benefits to their employees’ opposite-gender as well as same-gender spouses will continue to do so even though all of these couples can now get married.