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Same-sex couples guaranteed access to partners in nursing homes

July 1, 2013
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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After the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last week and required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) issued a guidance clarifying a 2010 memorandum from President Obama about visitation rights.

The CMS guidance affirms that same-sex couples, domestic partners and their families and friends will have access to a loved one in the hospital and, by extension, those who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

“This new guidance furthers the administration’s commitment to equality for same-sex couples and will help to guarantee that spouses or domestic partners of nursing home residents have every opportunity to be with their loved ones,” said CMS spokesman Brian Cook in a Washington Blade article. According to estimates, the new CMS guidance covers more than 52,000 lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) adults residing in nursing homes.

“Too many older members of the LGBT community are forced back into the closet when they enter nursing facilities. [The] guidance will help ensure that they and their families are respected,“ Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Washington Blade.

Health insurance tax credits may become complicated

Qualifications to receive federal insurance subsidies are based on income. The federal poverty line for an individual is currently $15,320. If that individual earns less than 133 percent of that figure, he or she will qualify for Medicaid. If earnings range between 133 to 400 percent of that poverty figure, the person qualifies for a tax subsidy to purchase health insurance, as explained in aWashington Post blog.

But the poverty line is defined differently for combined-income familie. LGBT couples may have to do the math to decide if it will be better or worse to apply to the health insurance marketplace as a couple instead of as individuals.

The marital status and income levels of the individuals can also affect their eligibility for tax subsidy credits. The Internal Revenue Service and other agencies will be addressing the insurance questions later in the year.

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