Domestic partners life and health insurance product filing requirements - FAQ

What are the filing requirements for life and health insurance products under the new domestic partners law

The law requires that registered domestic partners be treated the same as married spouses for all purposes under the law. It does not require any changes to insurance-policy language. It requires state agencies, such as the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, to amend regulations to be consistent with this requirement. At this time, we have not looked at what changes might need to be made to Title 284 WAC as a result. So far, no policy changes need to be filed to comply with the new law. Policies must be administered in a manner that treats registered domestic partners the same as married spouses.  No amendments are necessary.  

In order to ensure that policy language is not misleading, we will require future filings to state that all provisions applying to spouses apply equally to registered domestic partners.

See new domestic partners law (www.apps.leg.wa.gov) 

When does the new law take effect?

Most of the bill takes effect in December 2009, following a successful statewide referendum on the legislation. But several of the sections do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2014. These include sections affecting the laws governing retirement for certain government employees (judges, firefighters, law enforcement officers, certain city personnel, teachers, PERS 3 members, and public safety employees), the Basic Health plan access act, public assistance, and estate taxation.

If the life or health insurance product includes the term “spouse,” but does not define the term, is the company required to file an endorsement to the policy?

The new law does not require the term "spouse" to be defined in an insurance policy; it only requires that "spouse" be interpreted to include registered domestic partners, and that state-registered domestic partners be treated the same as married spouses.  

No endorsements need to be filed. All policies must be administered to treat registered domestic partners the same as married spouses.

Instead of filing an endorsement for approval, can we simply ensure that our underwriting and claims practices are gender-neutral, and provide equal treatment to state-registered domestic partners and married spouses? If so, do we need to file a certification?

Yes, the company may simply ensure that it complies with the law once it takes effect. It does not need to file any certification.

May the company achieve equal treatment of state-registered domestic partners by construing the term “spouse” to be gender-neutral? If so, do we need to file an endorsement to the policy or rider?

The new state law simply requires that the term "spouse" be interpreted to apply equally to state-registered domestic partners. Nothing at this time requires the companies to rewrite their policies or to file endorsements

In order to ensure that policy language is not misleading, we will require the language in future filings to clearly convey that all provisions applying to spouses apply equally to registered domestic partners.

Note: Some life or health insurance products include the term "spouse," which is defined as "the person to whom you are legally married. "Spouse" does not include a person from whom you are divorced." 

Does the new law require insured plans issued in Washington state to cover “state registered domestic partners” who are registered in any state where a registry is available?

The new law requires plans to cover both Washington-state-registered domestic partners and those registered in any other state.

This was required under the 2008 amendments to the domestic partnership law (apps.leg.wa.gov) and clarified in 2009 amendments*. When the new law takes effect, plans must grant domestic partners registered in any state the same rights available to spouses.

The new law is silent on spouses married in other states who are not allowed to legally marry in Washington state. The Federal Defense of Marriage Act clearly states that Washington state is not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Therefore, we believe that insured plans are not required to treat same-sex couples married in other states as spouses. 

 

*Sec.72. RCW 26.60.090 and 2008 c 6 s 1101 are each amended to read as follows:

A legal union of two persons of the same sex, other than a marriage, that was validly formed in another jurisdiction, and that is substantially equivalent to a domestic partnership under this chapter, shall be recognized as a valid domestic partnership in this state and shall be treated the same as a domestic partnership registered in this state regardless of whether it bears the name domestic partnership.


Updated 03/27/2014

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