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Medicare guidance: DOMA decision reaches nursing homes

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Same-sex spouses now have equal access to nursing homes via Medicare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced today.

“Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a news release. “Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the department “is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs.” She called the announcement “the first of many steps.”

The announcement specifically clarifies that the guarantee of coverage applies equally to couples who are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, regardless of where they live.

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