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Can My Health Insurance Cover My Unmarried Partner?

The short answer to this question is to check with your insurance company directly. Some insurance companies allow for policies to be extended to unmarried partners, regardless of whether the relationship is same-sex or heterosexual. In some cases, the ability for a person to extend his or her workplace provided health insurance to an unmarried partner comes down to an individual employer's policy.

Coverage for Unmarried Partners: Policy and Law

In the past, employers would only extend health insurance benefits to an employee's immediate family. Adult partners needed a legal certificate of marriage to establish a family relationship. This criterion has been evolving, largely due to the efforts of LGBT rights activists who have championed the case for extending benefits to gay partners who were barred from all benefits of legally recognized marriage.

In 2009 the federal government extended federal civilian employee benefits to domestic partners. The Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination directs the heads of government agencies to determine which employee benefits must be extended to same-sex partners to avoid unlawfully discriminating against individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The private sector has moved toward expanding coverage to unmarried partners as well. This shift to a broader definition of family has changed the landscape not only for gay couples, but for heterosexual couples as well. In 2011 for example, following the passage of New York's Marriage Equality Act, Cornell University in New York decided to expand employee benefits. The private research university extended benefits granted to same-sex partners to unmarried partners in heterosexual relationships.

Health insurance benefits, once considered a minor fringe benefit, have become an important component of employee compensation packages. For the more than eight million couples who live in a committed relationship without a certificate of marriage, whether or not this workplace benefit extends to a partner depends on the employer.

The Human Rights Campaign's 2014 Corporate Equality Index reports that 68 percent of the 734 businesses surveyed provide health insurance for both same and different sex partners of employees. This situation may change. As more states legalize same-sex marriages, businesses may again require a marriage certificate to confirm a relationship. Then again, they may not.

Coverage for Unmarried Partners Under the Affordable Care Act

With the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), unmarried partners now have new options when seeking health insurance coverage. If both parties need health insurance, subsidies are available through the health insurance marketplace. When working through the application process on, an option will ask if applicants are applying for insurance for them and their unmarried partner.

The ACA also benefits unmarried same-sex partners. Some insurance companies don't allow for policies to be extended to same-sex partners. A filter on allows users to eliminate these policies from their health insurance coverage options. The filter is also available for business owners searching for insurance for their employees. For more information, check out this document recently published on outlining the benefits of the ACA for LGBT Americans.

Even individuals who are eligible for coverage through their unmarried partner's insurance may find it less expensive to purchase insurance directly themselves. The ACA's health insurance marketplaces offer many subsidies and tax credits. For those with incomes less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), health insurance may be free in states that have opted to expand their Medicaid program. Individuals with incomes between 138 percent and 400 percent of the FPL may qualify for tax credits and subsidies through the health insurance exchange to offset health insurance premium costs.

This article was written by Gillian Burdett. Gillian is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on

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