Over the past few decades, many young adults have forgone traditional marriage in favor of domestic partnerships. While domestic partners share the responsibilities of paying bills and maintaining a shared home, they may not get the same benefits as married couples. Fortunately, in most cases, this no longer applies to health insurance benefits.
In most states nationwide, domestic partners can enroll in health insurance policies with the same benefits as married couples.
Domestic partnership explained
Domestic partners are defined as two unmarried individuals living together and sharing responsibilities. This applies to same-sex and heterosexual couples and those non-binary. Domestic partners can receive the same or similar benefits as married couples.
A domestic partnership is not recognized federally. Each state has an official definition; however, in all states, the couple must maintain a common residence and share certain responsibilities. Some states, like New York, require domestic partners to register their relationship to receive benefits.
What is domestic partner health insurance?
Many insurance companies offer domestic partner health insurance. Couples do not necessarily have to be married to receive the same or similar health insurance benefits as married couples. If you qualify for a domestic partnership, your partner can be on your plan with spousal benefits as if you are married. Any children residing in your home can also be added to the plan.
While each state and insurance plan has a specific definition of domestic partnership, the rules are generally similar. To qualify for domestic partnership health insurance in most states, couples must:
- Maintain a common residence.
- Share financial responsibilities.
- Be at least 18 years of age and mentally competent to consent to a contract.
- Not be married to each other or anyone else.
- Not be related in any way that would prohibit legal marriage in the U.S.
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The definition of domestic partnership for health insurance
Health insurance companies offering domestic partnership insurance generally define it as couples in a committed relationship similar to marriage but without an official marriage license. This includes sharing a common residence and financial responsibilities.
You can add a domestic partner to your insurance plan as a dependent, just as a spouse would be added if you were married. Children of the partnership residing in the shared residence are also recognized as dependents. Partners can share the cost of the health insurance plan if that is allowed under the plan guidelines.
Employer insurance for domestic partners
Some companies offered domestic partner insurance only to same-sex couples before same-sex marriage was legal. However, as trends changed and more young adults choose to live together without marriage, more insurance companies recognize all gender relationships as domestic partnerships. This has allowed coverage to be provided to more families without requiring the formality of legal marriage.
Employers can offer to add a domestic partner to an employee's plan after the partnership has existed for one year, but as stated, the option is state-specific. If insurance is offered, be prepared to submit proof of qualification. This can be documents showing a joint bank account, bills, and receipts in both names, a mortgage or rental agreement, notarized statements, or a filed domestic partnership agreement.
Should an employer offer to insure an employee's domestic partner, they often do not cover the premium cost as they do for married couples.
Will children of domestic partners be covered?
Children of domestic partners are typically covered under domestic partnership insurance. When domestic partnership insurance is offered, children of the partnership usually meet the criteria for a dependent and can be added to the plan. This can include biological children, stepchildren, and children legally adopted by the couple. Coverage for children of a domestic partnership should be the same as coverage for married couples.
How can you add a domestic partner to your health insurance?
Adding a domestic partner to your health insurance plan is similar to adding a spouse. Partners can be added upon initial enrollment, during the open enrollment period, or during a special enrollment period due to a qualifying life event, such as the birth of a child. Each company has a process, so check with your HR representative or insurance company for details.
Is there a domestic partner health insurance tax?
Because the federal government does not recognize domestic partnerships, there are differences between tax requirements for domestic partnerships and spousal insurance. Federal law prevents health insurance premiums for spouses and children from being taxed. However, since domestic partnerships are not recognized federally, the cost of premiums for domestic partners and children of the partnership is considered imputed taxable income.
This tax can be paid yearly or with each paycheck if your insurance plan is through your company. The imputed income is based on the amount the employer pays for the domestic partner’s monthly premium. This income can be applied annually on the employee’s W-2 or calculated monthly and applied with each paycheck.
Do I need health insurance for a domestic partner? The benefits and disadvantages
There are advantages and disadvantages to domestic partner health insurance. Insurance for a domestic partner can be a huge benefit in the event of illness or injury. Adding a domestic partner to your insurance plan may be the most cost-effective way for your partner to be covered by a quality health insurance policy. Unmarried couples might need to be on the same health insurance plan to keep current healthcare providers.
A disadvantage is the additional tax required for domestic partner premiums. If your domestic partner can get insurance through their employer, this tax can be avoided. Depending on the plan, adding a domestic partner may be extremely expensive compared to purchasing an individual plan through the healthcare marketplace. It is essential to consider both the benefits and disadvantages before adding your partner to your plan.
Can I add my girlfriend to my health insurance plan if we live together?
You can only add your girlfriend to your health insurance plan if they meet the qualifications of a domestic partner. This can include proof of shared financial responsibility and sometimes includes living together for a specific length of time.
What is the difference between a spouse and a domestic partner?
To be considered a spouse, you must have a legal marriage certificate. A domestic partnership does not require legal marriage but does require a shared residence and responsibilities, such as a mortgage payment or rent. The federal government does not recognize domestic partnerships.
How long do you have to be together to be domestic partners?
Domestic partnership regulations differ from state to state. Many states do not require that you establish a certain length of time for the relationship. Some states require that a certain length of time residing in the same residence be proven before the domestic partnership is recognized. Most commonly, this time frame is six months to one year.
Many insurance companies offer domestic partner insurance for couples. If your insurance company has this kind of policy available, you can add your partner to your health insurance without being married.
Domestic partners receive many of the same benefits as spouses with some important differences.
Domestic partnerships are recognized by most states but not by the federal government.
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Domestic Partner Benefits FAQ.
- Human Rights Campaign. Questions to Ask Before Enrolling in Domestic Partner Benefits.
- United States Census Bureau. Living with an Unmarried Partner Now Common for Young Adults.
- State of Rhode Island Office of Employee Benefits. Imputed Income Example.
- Alliance Health. Domestic Partner Health Insurance: Do You Qualify?