Although there is no legal requirement for employers to provide domestic partnership benefits, more insurance companies are changing their policies to better represent changing household demographics. According to the 2010 U.S. census, 7.7 million Americans are living with an unmarried domestic partner, up 41 percent since 2000. It may require shopping around for coverage, but by broadening your scope of resources you can locate the life insurance coverage you require. With this in mind, you should understand a few requirements in order to qualify.
Defining Domestic Partnership
In the United States, as of publication, only Massachusetts, California, Vermont, Maine, Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, New Jersey, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C., recognize domestic partnerships in their state laws. However, many insurance companies and employers offer life insurance solutions regardless of state recognition. In the absence of domestic partnership or gay marriage laws, public and private employers use the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 to distinguish between a married couple and a domestic partnership for insurance and benefits purposes. For benefit eligibility, insurance companies have established a domestic partnership as consisting of the following elements: financially independent individuals who are 18 years old or older, are not related by blood and are unmarried but hold an exclusive relationship.
Applying Through Employment
The number of employers that are providing domestic partner benefits has risen dramatically. According to the Human Rights Campaign, only 7 percent of employers throughout the United States provided benefits to domestic partners in 1997. By 2011, 83 percent of Fortune 100 companies were offering benefits for domestic partners. Because employers are not required to provide domestic partner insurance, your partner may still face requirements to qualify. For instance, your employer may require that you live together or have been in a relationship for a given amount of time. Many employers will require certification of your partnership through your local or state government. If your local government does not have a specified certification process, the employer may provide its own certification enrollment form. Your employer may also require a notarized domestic partnership affidavit, joint lease agreement, mortgage documents, driver's licenses, utility bill or other proof of residency.
Applying for Government Employees
According to Health Plan One, as of publication the state governments of Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Oklahoma, as well as the District of Columbia, provide insurance benefits to domestic partners. Benefits can range from health insurance to life insurance and may not be complete in coverage. The benefits that are available will vary from state to state. If your employer is the state government and it doesn't allow you to include your partner under your benefit package, you may need to purchase life insurance directly from an insurance provider. The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which passed a U.S. Senate panel in May 2012, would grant domestic partners and legal same-sex spouses of federal government employees the same benefits as a different-sex spouse of a federal employee if passed into law. Pending the legislation's passage, domestic partners of federal employees must obtain their own life insurance.
Applying Directly to an Insurance Company
Sometimes neither you nor your partner are eligible for life insurance through either of your employers. In that case, you may need to seek independent insurance from an insurance company. Domestic partnership insurance solutions are not mandatory for insurance companies, and some may not yet provide them. However, many major insurance providers offer life insurance for domestic partnerships. For instance, New York Life offers a Declaration of Domestic Partnership that states clearly what is needed to prove the status of your domestic partnership and where to send the documents and the signed declaration. MetLife also provides a Domestic Partnership Declaration form that states the length of time in which partners must live together in order to apply and the documents partners must provide in order to verify their partnership.
Video of the Day
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- MetLife: Domestic Partnership Declaration
- Health Plan One: Domestic Partner Coverage
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- Politico: Panel Passes Domestic Partner Benefits Bill
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images