Wisconsin insurers open enrollment for married same-sex couples


MILWAUKEE — Several Wisconsin insurance companies are holding special sign-ups so same-sex couples can add spouses to their health plans.

WisconsinThe special enrollment periods are needed because gays and lesbians who got married in Wisconsin last summer were unable to add spouses to their coverage amid the uncertainty surrounding the legal status of their marriages.

People generally can make changes to a health plan during the year only after a “life-changing” event, such as a marriage, divorce, or birth or adoption of a child. The typical deadline is 30 days.

Same-sex couples who got married in Wisconsin after a federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban in June missed that window as they waited for the case to make its way through federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6 rejected appeals from Wisconsin and four other states, effectively making same-sex marriage legal in those states.

WPS Health Insurance, Dean Health Plan and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin are among the health insurers that are now offering special enrollment periods, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“Basically, what we are trying to do is get everyone in as quickly as possible,” said Christine Witherill, a lawyer with Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corp., the parent of WPS Health Insurance.

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Humana also plans to offer a special enrollment period but is working out the details. UnitedHealthcare declined to comment.

The special open-enrollment periods may not apply to employers who self-insure, or pay most of the medical bills of employees and their families. Those companies often contract with health insurers to manage their health plans.

Without the special open-enrollment periods, same-sex couples would have to wait until their next annual open-enrollment periods to add spouses to their plans. Same-sex couples, no matter when they were married, will be able to add their spouses during open enrollment the same as everyone else in Wisconsin.

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