Married at Walmart; no insurance for lesbian spouse | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 20, 2015

Married at Walmart; no insurance for lesbian spouse

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 12:52 PM

The Atlantic reports on the equality gaps that remain for same-sex couples even legally married and even working for a company, Walmart, that has made some progress toward inclusive benefits for domestic partners and same-sex couples.

A Walmart manager in Maine, who legally married her wife in Massachusetts, tried repeatedly to get her spouse covered on Walmart's  health insurance plan, but been denied. This became a problem when she developed ovarian cancer and her private insurance ran out.

In 2014, Walmart changed its policy to allow same-sex spouses to join its employees’ health insurance plans. But it was too late for [Diana] Smithson: She had already racked up more than $100,000 in medical expenses, [Jacqueline] Cote and her lawyers say.

Fifteen states have no law requiring insurance coverage for same-sex partners, and in those states, businesses can choose not to offer same-sex spousal health coverage. Massachusetts is not one of those states, however: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in the 37 states with legal gay marriage, “employees’ same-sex spouses should have the same eligibility as opposite sex spouses for dependent health coverage.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that states that recognize same-sex marriage must also treat gay spouses the same as straight spouses when it comes to federal benefits and taxes.

But many employers haven't updated policies and people fall through the cracks. This couple has won an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling that there was cause to believe Walmart discriminated on account of their sexes. It is not in the conciliation process.

In Arkansas, presumably, Bobby Hester and Co. would say their religion permits them to deny health insurance coverage to a lesbian couple.

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