HHS announces important Medicare information for people in same-sex marriages

Dept. of Health & Human Services

04/03/2014

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now able to process requests for Medicare Part A and Part B Special Enrollment Periods, and reductions in Part B and premium Part A late enrollment penalties for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages. This is another step HHS is taking in response to the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility, for Medicare.

Read more about today’s announcement here …

The 9th Circuit Did NOT Invent Equal Protection

— by Rich Dunn, NVRDC 2nd Vice Chairperson

“After the voters of Nevada passed a law designating that marriage be defined as a union between a man and a woman, Nevada’s Democrat (sic) attorney general has co-opted with the ultra-liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and decided that ‘we can’t win after the Ninth Circuit changed the rules’ (by deciding in another case that any law that deals with homosexual people requires heightened scrutiny with regard to possible discrimination).”
-Teri A. Cotham of Gardnerville in a letter published in the Feb. 18th Nevada Appeal

Teri doesn’t seem to have heard about United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court case which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby granting federal benefits to same sex couples who are married under state law. That’s the case upon which the Utah and Virginia same-sex marriage bans have been ruled unconstitutional, and upon which Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban will no doubt be overturned, regardless of whether the State of Nevada chooses to defend it. And it’s worth noting that the Windsor case came from the Southern District of New York in the 2nd Circuit, not the 9th Circuit.

Teri also doesn’t appear to understand what role the 9th Circuit played in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case she appears to be citing. That was a 50-page ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative on the 2008 ballot, was unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment.

The 9th Circuit issued a stay to give Prop 8 proponents an opportunity to appeal, then passed that appeal on to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it, ruling that proponents of initiatives such as Prop 8 don’t have standing to defend the resulting law. On that basis, the court directed the 9th Circuit to lift its stay and vacate its concurrence, allowing Judge Walker’s ruling to stand. And that is how Prop 8 was overturned.

Lastly, Teri seems unaware that the concept of subjecting certain kinds of legal challenges to “heightened scrutiny” is based on the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. When a law has the potential to infringe upon a civil right, the government is called upon to defend it. If it’s found to be too broad in scope, fails to accomplish its stated purpose, or unreasonably infringes upon constitutionally protected rights, it will be struck down in any circuit, not just the 9th Circuit.

HHS announces first guidance implementing Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memo clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.  This is the first guidance issued by HHS in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.”

“Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”

Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan are entitled to care in, among certain other skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), the SNF where their spouse resides (assuming that they have met the conditions for SNF coverage in the first place, and the SNF has agreed to the payment amounts and other terms that apply to a plan network SNF).  Seniors with Medicare Advantage previously may have faced the choice of receiving coverage in a nursing home away from their same-sex spouse, or dis-enrolling from the Medicare Advantage plan which would have meant paying more out-of-pocket for care in the same nursing home as their same-sex spouse.

Today’s guidance clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to all married couples.  The guidance specifically clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to couples who are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, regardless of where they live.
###

Seven Terrible State Bills

— by ThinkProgress War Room | Mar 27, 2013

Recently, we discussed some of the terrible bills floating around out there in state legislatures. Here’s another look at some of the worst proposals, including a couple that were signed into law this week:

  • NORTH DAKOTA: The state’s Republican governor signed a trifecta of terrible anti-abortion bills, which are likely to have the effect of banning abortion in the state. One bill unconstitutionally bans abortion after just six weeks, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant. An even more insidious bill takes up the anti-abortion movement’s favorite new tactic: drastic overregulation of abortion clinics to all but guarantee that they will have to close. These so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are also moving in North CarolinaMississippiTexasAlabama, and Virginia.
  • KANSAS: A new bill will allow the state to quarantine HIV positive individuals, something Kansas actually banned back in 1988.
  • INDIANA: An anti-abortion bill was going to mandate forced ultrasounds before a woman is provided with the abortion pill. Lawmakers explain that they are dropping the controversial provision in order to focus on their real goal: regulating abortion clinics out of existence.
  • VIRGINIA: Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed a bill that will mandate that Virginians present photo identification when they vote, which will disproportionately impact young people, minorities, and the elderly.
  • KENTUCKY: The legislature passed a so-called “religious freedom” bill that allows individuals to ignore laws based on the vague notion of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people, among other problems. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) vetoed the bill, but unfortunately his veto was overridden yesterday.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Top Republicans in the state have yet to abandon a GOP plan to rig steal the White House by rigging the distribution of the state’s Electoral College votes. Republicans in Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states dropped the idea, but Pennsylvania Republicans are keeping it on the table.
  • ARKANSAS: In addition to its race to the bottom on abortion, Arkansas is considering some highly regressive tax changes. As part of an effort meant to stimulate growth, an Arkansas legislative committee passed two tax cuts that will largely benefit the rich and then rejected one that would benefit the working poor. A recent study found that state-level tax cuts don’t promote job growth.

Another week, another set of terrible proposals moving out in state legislatures.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.