Obama administration opens Medicare to same-sex married couples

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 3, 2014 11:47am EDT

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on ''Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Implementation Failures: What's Next?'' on Capitol Hill in Washington December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on ''Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Implementation Failures: What's Next?'' on Capitol Hill in Washington December 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration announced on Thursday that same-sex married couples can qualify for Medicare hospital and physician benefits for the first time.

The decision, coming after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal ban against same-sex marriage, allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine the eligibility of married gay applicants to Medicare, the federal government's healthcare program for the elderly and the disabled.

"We are working together with SSA to process these requests in a timely manner to ensure all beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated fairly under the law," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)said the government has begun the enrollment process for some same-sex spouses while handling requests for special enrollment periods from others. CMS oversees the $635 billion Medicare program. But SSA determines eligibility.

"If you're in, or are a surviving spouse of, a same-sex marriage, we encourage you to apply for Medicare if you think you might be eligible," CMS said in a web posting.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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Comments (5)
tatman wrote:
Great news! as a legally married gay man, this is a wonderful step forward toward equal protection under the constitution for ALL married couples within the united states, regardless of sexual orientation. BRAVO! thank you, Mr. President. :)

Apr 03, 2014 12:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Shary wrote:
People are treated as individuals under Medicare — married or single — at least retirees are treated that way

Apr 03, 2014 1:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RexMax46 wrote:
This is great news and another victory for civil rights!

Apr 03, 2014 1:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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