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OPM to extend health coverage to gay federal employees’ children

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Saturday, July 21, 2012
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WASHINGTON — Gay federal employees will be able to cover the children of their same-sex partners under the federal health insurance plan once a proposed rule published Friday by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is enacted.

Under the proposed regulation, children will be eligible for coverage if a parent is in a domestic same-sex relationship with a federal employee who receives coverage through federal programs.

These children would be eligible for coverage — both under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and the Federal Employees Dental & Vision Program — regardless of whether or not they’ve been legally adopted by the federal employee.

The same rule also brings federal health program rules into compliance with the Affordable Care Act, which stipulates insurers providing dependent coverage extend that coverage to the children of individuals they insure until the age of 26.

Emily Hecht-McGowan, the Family Equality Council’s public policy director, said the proposed rule is important because many LGBT families throughout the country live in states without legal protections.

“Most of the two million children raised by LGBT parents live in states where their parents cannot marry, cannot secure legal ties to their own kids and cannot get their children covered under a health insurance plan,” Hecht-McGowan said. “This rule change means that federal workers can now be assured that a high fever, broken arm or debilitating illness won’t jeopardize their child’s health or their family’s finances.”

Now that the rule has been proposed, OPM will take public comment on its implementation, which must be received by the agency within 60 days. The rule would be made final at some later time, but there’s no required or definitive timeline for publication of the final rule. Typically regulations become effective 30 days after they’re issued.

Right now, federal employees can obtain coverage for the children of their same-sex partners if he or she adopts their partner’s children. But adoption isn’t available to same-sex couples everywhere: only in 18 states and D.C. is second-parent adoption available statewide.

Brian Moulton, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the proposed rule change is important because of this limited availability of second-parent adoption.

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