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

Jun 5, 2014

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

File photo of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Credit Joe Mabel

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.