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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington AG Puts Health Plans On Notice To Cover Same-Sex Spouses

Joe Mabel

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is reminding employers they may not discriminate against same-sex spouses when it comes to health coverage.

That warning Thursday follows a discrimination complaint earlier this year against O’Reilly Auto Parts. O’Reilly is a national chain with stores in Washington. The company announced it would cover same-sex spouses after the state of Washington launched an investigation. That followed a similar move by Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad last December.

Those are the only two examples Ferguson said he’s aware of where same-sex spouses were allegedly denied benefits.

“I do not believe that we’ve received other complaints so far on this issue in our office,” he said.

Nonetheless, Ferguson, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and the Washington State Human Rights Commission have written an open letter to health plan administrators, insurance companies and employers. It reminds them that it would be a violation of Washington’s anti-discrimination law to cover opposite-sex spouses, but refuse coverage to same-sex spouses.

The warning comes as health care coverage expands under the Affordable Care Act and more health plans are certified in Washington.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."