Blue Cross explains reversal on providing family coverage to same-sex couples | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blue Cross explains reversal on providing family coverage to same-sex couples

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 6:48 AM

click to enlarge A SMALL STEP FOR EQUALITY: Blue Cross policy change.
  • A SMALL STEP FOR EQUALITY: Blue Cross policy change.

Reasons have emerged for the recent announcement by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield that it will provide insurance coverage to legally married same-sex couples under family insurance policies. The law and shame played a role, a North Carolina Blue Cross official has explained.

Reporting in North Carolina on a policy change similar to that announced in Arkansas explains. It began with the North Carolina insurer's decision to cancel policies held by married couples legally married in other states.

The cancellations by Blue Cross stunned the affected couples because the insurer offers same-sex benefits to its own employees and is considered a gay-friendly company.

...The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is administering the health care law, had issued legal guidance in September advising that denying coverage to same-sex couples was illegal under the new law.

“The Affordable Care Act also includes critically important, nondiscrimination provisions,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said in a Sept. 17 notice. “It will be illegal for any of the insurance companies who offer coverage through the marketplace to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Then there was shame.

The controversy rattled Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer, and created a sense of embarrassment among many employees. CEO Brad Wilson extended a public apology in the company’s announcement.

“We should have more thoughtfully considered this decision, with full appreciation of the impact it would have on same-sex married couples and domestic partners,” Wilson said. “We’re sorry we failed to do so.”

In Arkansas, Blue Cross recently announced   policy change that will allow coverage of legally married same-sex couples. I don't know if Arkansas Blue Cross has domestic partner coverage as North Carolina Blue Cross has, an efficient and effective and family-friendly way to make the workforce more productive. But this is Arkansas. Even the Arkansas modest policy change infuriated the Arkansas Family Council, a right-wing religious lobby which favors legal discrimination against gay people in marriage, employment and other facets of life. In North Carolina, some 20 legally married couples had policies cancelled. It's not known how many people, will be helped in Arkansas.

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