Gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for several years. Health plans have responded by treating gay couples the same as straight couples. But thanks to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), benefits that employers paid for same-sex spouses were treated as taxable income. That created a serious disincentive for same-sex spouses to sign onto their partners’ plans.
But last month the Supreme Court struck down key parts of DOMA. And that means more same-sex couples are likely to take up employers on their offer of health insurance coverage. In response, health plans like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts are offering special open enrollment periods to allow same-sex couples and their dependents to enroll in employer-sponsored plans.
The Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t legalize gay marriage in states where it’s banned, so as far as I know the uptick in enrollment that’s expected in Massachusetts won’t be matched everywhere. Liberal social policies like gay marriage help Massachusetts flourish by drawing in and retaining well-educated, talented people. The Supreme Court’s decision gives Massachusetts and similar states an additional edge.