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Additional Health Insurance Rights Granted to Illinois Civil Union Spouses

By Nottage and Ward on July 11, 2011

We continue our blog series discussing the new benefits given to civil union couples in Illinois now that the civil union law is in effect, focusing on health insurance coverage in relation to continuation rights, Medicare eligibility, and more.

Are Civil Union Spouses Given Continuation Rights?

In the event of a death, divorce, retirement, or job loss, Illinois law permits individuals that are covered by a civil union spouse’s employer-based health insurance policy to remain covered even after hours are reduced or a the job is lost and results in the coverage’s termination, as well as when an employee retires, divorces the spouse, or dies. Under Illinois law, continuation rights equally apply to married spouses and civil union spouses.

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), similar continuation rights are given to spouses, although some differences exist between the federal COBRA law and the continuation laws in Illinois regarding how long coverage lasts, its costs, and other qualifying events.

Are Civil Union Spouses Eligible for Medicare?

No, because Medicare is a function of federal law. It does not recognize a civil union partner as being a spouse. Under federal law, someone is eligible for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) if they are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, at least 65-years-old, and they have or their spouse has worked in a Medicare-covered job for at least 10 years. Therefore, if someone does not have at least 10 years of work that is covered by Medicare, they are not able to use their civil union spouse’s employment history in order to establish their eligibility for Medicare Part A.

Can Civil Union Spouses Participate in Medical Savings Accounts?

No, because medical savings accounts (MSAs) are established according to federal law. An MSA permits “eligible individuals” to contribute pre-tax money into a savings account, which can then be used to pay insurance premium and deductibles, as well as other medical expenses. Since federal law does not recognize civil unions, a civil union spouse would not be considered to be eligible under an MSA plan.

To find out about other benefits given to civil union spouses in Illinois, you may find it beneficial to contact a Chicago civil union attorney like those at Nottage and Ward. Please continue to read our blog for more coverage on this topic, or visit http://www.insurance.illinois.gov/.

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