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Revisiting domestic-partner coverage after Obergefell

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

When the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, plenty of HR pros started to wonder: Do we even need to offer health benefits to employees’ domestic partners anymore?

Fifty-five percent of employers with 500 or more workers currently let employees buy into family coverage so domestic partners can have health insurance. Of very large employers—those with staffs of 20,000 or more—76% offer domestic partner coverage.

Most began offering it because gay employees did not have the legal right to marry their same-sex partners, who thus could not qualify for dependent coverage.

But since the Supreme Court’s June decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, employers that offer spousal benefits to anyone must extend them to all legally married employees, regardless of a spouse’s gender. Does that render domestic partnership coverage obsolete?

A recent poll by the Mercer consulting firm shows that some employers believe it might.

In light of same-sex marriage legalization, will employers drop domestic partner coverage?

Not considering dropping it   44%

Considering dropping within 2-3 years   23%

Plan to drop next open enrollment   23%

Already dropped where same-sex marriage is legal   4%

Source: Mercer poll, July 2015

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