A new health care policy put in place by the Obama administration will expand benefits for same-sex couples by ensuring that all health insurance plans offering benefits to straight couples must also provide the same benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
The Department of Health and Human Services made the announcement Friday, the Associated Press reports. At the same time, HHS announced a one-month extension for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, allowing those who were turned down for coverage because of an existing health problem until April 30 to find a plan.
Health insurers will be required to offer equal benefits to heterosexual and same-sex couples beginning in 2015, though HHS has requested that they begin offering the same level of coverage immediately.
"If an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses," Dr. Matthew Heinz, who heads HHS outreach LGBT Americans, said in a statement.
"In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage,” he continued. “This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses."
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There are two large exceptions to the move. The policy will not apply to “grandfathered” plans that were active when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, though these plans represent a shrinking percentage of the market. Medicaid coverage for low-income Americans will also be exempt, as it is run at the state level. HHS officials have encouraged state authorities and insurance companies to voluntarily offer the same equality of benefits.