The Health and Human Services Department on Thursday took initial steps toward complying with the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
HHS lifted restrictions on nursing-home care for same-sex couples, which had been imposed by DOMA’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
“Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
Thursday’s announcement applies to same-sex couples enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans.
When seniors in Medicare Advantage need to enter a nursing home, they have the option to choose the same nursing home where their spouse resides.
Because of DOMA’s definition of marriage, that choice was previously available only to opposite-sex couples. But HHS said that because of the court’s decision, all married couples will now have the same option when choosing a nursing home.