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Thursday December 18th 2014

Special Open Enrollment following Supreme Court’s Invalidation of DOMA

Recently the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) that effectively barred same-sex married couples from being recognized as “spouses” for purposes of federal law.  The purpose of the linked memorandum is to announce a special open enrollment period for state employees and retirees who wish to add a same-sex spouse to the State’s health plan and to explain immediate changes in the federal tax treatment of health benefits provided to same-sex married couples.

The Special Open Enrollment period will occur between July 9, 2013 and September 13, 2013 to give employees the opportunity to enroll a same-sex spouse for health benefit coverage. During this period, enrollment is limited to state employees and retirees who did not previously enroll their same sex spouse. Subscribers who fail to add a same-sex spouse partner during the Special Enrollment Period will not be permitted to add such persons until the annual Open Enrollment period for coverage effective July 1 of each year, or until a Qualifying Event such as a loss of coverage or life status change. The Subscriber must provide a copy of his or her marriage certificate at the time of enrollment.

For employees and retirees currently covering a same sex spouse under the state health plan, the Comptroller’s Office is working on adjusting premium shares from a post-tax to a pre-tax basis and modifying federal income and Social Security taxes year to date.

The IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor are expected to issue guidance concerning how the Supreme Court’s decision will affect the administration of some 1,000 federal laws.  It is presently unclear how the ruling will impact federal income tax returns filed in prior years or whether the IRS will establish specific procedures for same-sex couples to seek refunds based on filing status or payment of federal income and Social Security taxes on the imputed value health benefits to a same-sex spouse.

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