Alabama’s Largest Insurance Provider Extending Coverage to Same-Sex Couples

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama is now offering legally married gay couples spousal coverage, in compliance with a federal rule requiring insurance companies to treat all married couples equally, regardless of their sexual orientations.

A spokesperson for the largest insurer in the Heart of Dixie said that the company started offering same-sex spousal coverage for underwritten plans in early 2014, “in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ regulations that prohibit health insurers from discriminating in health plan coverage on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Although Alabama has a ban on gay marriage and refuses to recognize same-sex marriages made in other states as valid, it still must obey the Department of Health and Human Services’s new guidelines, which were issued in March. Under these rules, same-sex couples — who were legally married in other states — are entitled to receive the same coverage that heterosexual couples are allowed to. They’re allowed to have their appointments with primary care physicians and medicines, which most commonly come in carded blister packaging, covered and reimbursed the same way heterosexual couples are.

The requirement specifically applies to underwritten insurance plans, including both those sold on the federal insurance exchange, and many of the plans sold directly. The federal rule did not affect plans that were grandfathered in under the Affordable Care Act and self-insured plans, in which large companies run their own health insurance program.

“Under this CMS rule, if a health insurer offers coverage for opposite-sex spouses, then the insurer must also offer coverage to same-sex spouses that are legally married in any state regardless of the state of residence,” said Koko Mackin, Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesperson.

The Obama administration urged insurers to comply voluntarily when the new law passed. Come January 1, 2015, it will become a requirement for coverage according to the HHS guidance.

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