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Blue Cross and Blue Shield cuts family policies for gay N.C. couples

Sunday, January 26, 2014
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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s largest insurer has cancelled family insurance policies sold to 20 gay and lesbian couples on a federal insurance marketplace because of restrictive contract language the company plans to remove next year.

blue-cross-ncBlue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was legally bound to invalidate the policies because of standard language in the insurer’s individual policies that define “spouse” as “opposite sex,” state Insurance Department spokeswoman Kerry Hall said.

Gay rights advocates point out the nonprofit insurer offers domestic partner benefits to its own employees, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported, and that Blue Cross insurance plans offered by large North Carolina companies also include health benefits for employees and their same-sex partner.

The only other insurer selling subsidized coverage on North Carolina’s federally run insurance marketplace is Coventry Health, which doesn’t bar same-sex couples from buying a family policy, spokesman Walt Cherniak said.

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Blue Cross has never offered domestic partner or same-sex health coverage on individual and small group policies in North Carolina, spokeswoman Michelle Douglas said.

The insurer said it had intended to update its plans to include those offerings, but postponed making the change in terminology as the company scrambled to get ready for what turned out to be a rocky rollout of subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The change would have affected billing, insurance cards and other calculations that required time for implementation and testing, Douglas said.

Blue Cross said it plans in 2015 to offer the same insurance options to same-sex married couples and couples in domestic partnerships as are offered to everyone else.

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