Old man in nursing home
Progress happens.
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memo clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives. This is the first guidance issued by HHS in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

"HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Today's announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court's decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law."

"Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation," said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. "Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose."

Under current law, people enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans have the guarantee that if they also need to enter nursing care, they have the ability to be in the same facility as their spouse. That guarantee, until now, hasn't been extended to same-sex spouses, sometimes forcing couples to live out their last years apart. That's over now, for couples in legally recognized same-sex marriages. It doesn't matter what state they reside in, as long as they were married in a state that grants marriage equality.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 09:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Good News and Daily Kos.

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