Health insurance matters for children of same-sex parents

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Recognizing the legitimacy of same-sex relationships is an important step to getting the best health outcomes for children with same-sex parents. This is especially the case when it comes to health insurance. A new study, published in September 2013, has shown that disparities in private insurance diminish for children with same-sex parents when the family lives in a state that permits same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or second-parent adoptions.

Why does this matter for children of same-sex parents?

It matters because health insurance is often associated with improved health for children, particularly in the US.

55% of the population in the US receive health insurance through their own or their family’s employer-sponsored health plan. When US states legally recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or comprehensive domestic relationships, then employers that are “fully insured” and regulated by state insurance laws are often required to grant health insurance benefits to the children of gay and lesbian employees.

But, not all US states legally recognize same-sex unions or allow adoption by same-sex parents. This means that gay and lesbian parents often face barriers to adding their children to their health insurance plan. As a consequence, the health outcomes of children of same-sex parents may be compromised.

Which families have private health insurance in the US?

From American Community Survey data, it’s been shown that 78% of straight married couples families have private health insurance.

63% of male same-sex parent families have private health insurance. 68% of female same-sex parent families have private health insurance.

Does recognition of same-sex unions or marriage matter when it comes to private health insurance?

Yes, legal recognition of same-sex unions and marriages matters when it comes to private health insurance. Children of same-sex parents in states that haven’t legalized same-sex marriage and civil unions or second-parent adoptions for same-sex parents are less likely to have access to private health insurance as compared to straight married couples.

What about public health insurance?

No differences between the public health insurance coverage between children of same-sex parents as compared to different-sex parents were found in the study. This may be because eligibility for public health insurance programs, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, is assessed on household income and not parental martial status.

References

Gonzales G, Blewett LA. Disparities in Health Insurance Among Children With Same-Sex Parents. Pediatrics Epub September 16, 2013;132(4) DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-0988

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