The Ultimate Guide to Domestic Partnerships and Health Insurance
With legal rights for same-sex couples changing across the country, more and more local municipalities and employers are extending benefits beyond traditionally-married couples. Depending on certain details, you and your partner may be eligible to sign up for health insurance together, even if you’re not married. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Domestic Partnership?
A domestic partnership is when two people live together in a committed relationship as if they are spouses, but are not legally married. Domestic partners can be of the same or opposite sex and should have similar characteristics as married couples (e.g. shared financial responsibility). Depending on state law, domestic partnerships have access to certain benefits, such as eligibility for employer-sponsored health plans.
Where Are Domestic Partnerships Legally Recognized?
Domestic partnerships are not recognized on the federal level. This means that your local city will have its own guidelines regarding what a domestic partnership is.
Here’s a list of domestic partnership status by state (as of 2018, according to LegalMatch). If a city or state maintains a registry, that means they allow couples to officially obtain domestic partnership status; select areas will extend rights to some couples, even without a registry.
Who Qualifies As a Domestic Partner?
Qualifications for domestic partnership vary by city. Some cities may require you to be local residents, of a certain age, or have local employment. Find out who in your local government issues marriage licenses, and ask them how they recognize domestic partnerships.
What Does Domestic Partnership Mean for Health Insurance?
Health insurance coverage for domestic partnerships varies by insurance company and location. When shopping on the health insurance marketplace, you can list your partner as a household member as long as you share a child together and/or claim your partner as a tax dependent.
You can call health insurance companies directly and ask if they recognize domestic partnerships. If they do, you’ll be able to include any of your biological, step-, or legally-adopted children on your plan, as well.
Inside tip → If you’re unable to find family coverage, you can enroll in individual plans. This can actually be a more affordable option if one of you is eligible for subsidized prices.
If you live in an area that recognizes domestic partnerships, your (or your partner’s) employer may include domestic partners on their group health plans. Keep in mind that if your employer helps pay for your partner’s coverage–and if your partner is not an IRS-qualifying dependent–you will need to report those contributions as taxable income on your W-2. COBRA coverage is not extended to domestic partners or spouses.
What Documentation Do I Need to Prove My Domestic Partnership?
If your employer or health insurance company is requesting proof of your domestic partnership, these types of documentation will help you make your case:
State or municipal domestic partnership registration
A signed affidavit stating that both you and your partner:
Are 18 or older
Are not blood relatives, married to someone else, or in a relationship with other people
Have lived together for at least six months
Share the same permanent and regular residence
Share responsibility for living expenses
Joint deed (or mortgage agreement) showing shared ownership of a car
Driver’s licenses listing the same address
Proof of joint bank and credit card accounts
Designation of your partner as a primary life insurance plan beneficiary