Make sure your family is properly insured

Insurance can be an overwhelming and confusing topic. Throw a non-married couple into the mix and you may have a number of questions. When two people live together domestically but aren’t married, can they still share an insurance plan?

Luckily, there have been some new regulations and insurance plans put in place in recent years to make sure these couples are able to get the insurance coverage they need.

If you consider yourself in a committed relationship, where you may share a home, a car, living expenses, and even children but you aren’t legally married, you may be in a domestic partnership. You can be in a domestic partnership if you’re in a same-sex or opposite-sex relationship.

This guide will go over everything you need to know about domestic partnerships and how domestic partner insurance works.

What is a domestic partnership?

When two people share their domestic life, living together and are involved in an interpersonal relationship, this is the definition of a domestic partnership. Although they are sharing their life as though they are married, they technically are not legally married.

The term domestic partner or DP can refer to the same sex or opposite sex.  This is often used by insurance companies to define who is covered under a family health care plan. You may also see the term Qualified Domestic Partner or QDP.

A domestic partner does need to include one person who you are in a committed relationship with. You can’t be married to a third, person, for example. There are several criteria that need to be met for the insurance companies to qualify a couple as domestic partners.

How does domestic partnership insurance work?

Domestic partner insurance is set up to give insurance coverage to the definition of a spouse without someone actually being married. This will then allow for the insurance plan to cover the couple as well as their children without being married.

These plans allow for a couple to still benefit from a lower insurance rate and also receive the same employee benefits package as a legally married couple. These plans will also help cover any children you and your domestic partner share.

Wikimedia

How do you prove your domestic partnership?

There aren’t any federal regulations put in place to legally define a domestic partnership. Instead, each individual state can regulate them individually. In most states, those that recognize them offer domestic partnership benefits to two people of the same or opposite sex who live together as a married couple but aren’t legally married with a marriage license.

Couples in a domestic partnership will usually share a residence as well as financial responsibilities much like a married couple. They may also raise children together and share full custody as a married couple would.

In most cases, in order to prove you are in a domestic partnership, you must sign a form that your health care or employer provides that incudes declarations regarding your relationship.

Your employer’s benefits coordinator or administrator will typically give you a form that includes questions regarding your residence for the past six months to a year and your plans to live together indefinitely.

You must also declare that you are publicly known as a couple and that you currently aren’t married or in a domestic partnership with anyone else.

You will also need to share that you are both responsible for your basic living expenses and that you share your financial information. You may need to provide documentation to prove this.

Documentation to have prepared

When you’re applying for a domestic partnership insurance plan, there are a few key documents that may help prove your partnership. While many of these might not be required, these are a few of the most common for many health care providers.

Common documents may include proof of a shared car or homes such as a deed, mortgage agreement, or car loan. You may also need to submit joint bank account information, driver licenses with matching addresses, and any power of attorneys or beneficiary information such as a will or for retirement benefits.

Are children covered under a domestic partner plan?

If your health care provider recognizes you and your partner as being in a qualified domestic relationship then your children will typically be covered under a family benefits plan. Children who are included must be one of your biological children, stepchildren, or legally adopted children.

The conditions may vary depending on who your insurance provider is. Make sure to clarify this with your plan administrator. You’ll want to avoid any confusion and make sure your children are properly insured.

How to shop for a plan

Just like with any other insurance plan, evaluating your domestic partnership insurance should take some time and research. You want to make sure you ask any questions you may have and review your plan thoroughly. You want to get the most you can out of your policy and that may require taking the time to understand it.

To find a plan, start by looking at your existing employer’s benefits package. You can ask your human resources department or ask your insurance company directly about more information. If they do have a domestic partner plan in place, you can go from there to get started.

Your employee benefits coordinator should be able to walk you through the steps necessary to get your partner added to your plan.

If your insurance company doesn’t offer this type of plan, you may have to shop around for a private company.

You already have insurance but you want to add a domestic partner

Every company and insurance plan is different. If you want to add your domestic partner to your current plan, check with your plan administrator to make sure you’re fully prepared and insured.

Typically, if you are already employed and insured, you can add a domestic partner at any point just as you would after a marriage. If your current insurance provider has this type of coverage, adding your partner shouldn’t be too difficult with the right documentation.

Typically there are open enrollment periods with every insurance provider. If you have a qualifying life event, you may be able to add your domestic partner or a child at a different time of the year. Let’s say you’re adopting a child, for example, you should be able to add your domestic partner as well as your new child under the qualifying life event exemption.

What if your employer doesn’t provide coverage?

If your employer or your healthcare provider doesn’t provide coverage, you can see if your partner’s provider does.  If neither of your plans includes domestic partners, you may need to find your own private provider or package.

If you would prefer to go with a private plan moving forward, you will typically need to sign a waiver stating that you no longer wish to have employees provided benefits coverage. When you do this, you may also want to ask that your compensation be adjusted.

You may also want to ask that your employer start to provide these benefits. Most employees can actually add domestic partnerships to their plans pretty easily.

It won’t cost your employer more than anyone else in a legally married couple according to a Hewitt Associates study published by the Human Rights Campaign.

In 2005, a Hewitt Associates study showed that for most employers, 64% experienced a financial impact that was under 1% of the cost of their total benefits. Only 5% of employers saw a 3% or greater financial loss compared to the cost of their total benefits.

What if you aren’t considered married for income tax purposes?

Let’s say you are in a domestic partnership but you aren’t declaring yourself as married on your income taxes. There can be a number of reasons why someone who identifies as being in a domestic partnership may not want to be considered married for income tax reasons.

The IRS does recognize a few situations where this may apply. Visit the IRS website to check the guidelines and recommendations. Every situation is different and so is everyone’s finances. If you’re concerned, seek professional help and brush up on your local state law.

The impact on society

Defining a domestic partnership has been a crucial step towards equality for all types of couples and non-traditional families. When the plans were first put in place they mainly applied to same-sex couples because many of them couldn’t legally get married.

In recent years, this has changed to include opposite-sex couples as well. Many of these couples may choose not to get legally married for religious or financial reasons and every family should be able to have adequate healthcare regardless of their gender, sexual preference, or marital status.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

This simplified guide was created so that you can gain clarity about whole life insurance.

There are a lot of health insurance options around and a lot of factors that play into what the cost of those options will be for a single male.