Understanding Domestic Partnerships and Domestic Partner Insurance

How To Get Coverage When You and Your Partner Aren't Married

This illustration describes documentation that can help prove domestic partnership including "Shared ownership of a car or other property," "Proof of joint accounts (bank, credit, loans)," "Designation of primary beneficiary on benefits and wills," "Driver's licenses sharing a common address," and "Assignment of power of attorneys."

The Balance / Bailey Mariner

A domestic partnership is an arrangement in which two people live together and are in a committed relationship without being legally married. It shares many of the same benefits as being married. Domestic partnerships are composed of two people of any gender, which includes male, female, or nonbinary people.

The term domestic partner is often used in health insurance to describe who may be covered by a family health policy. Your insurance carrier may also use the term Qualified Domestic Partners (QDP). Set criteria must be met for people to be counted as domestic partners for health insurance or group benefits purposes. Domestic partners must be a couple for insurance purposes. You can't be married to a third person and be a domestic partner with someone else.

Key Takeaways

  • Domestic partner health insurance covers both partners just as though they were married, and it covers their children as well.
  • Partners will most likely have to establish that they are indeed domestic partners by providing proof such as a lease, deed or mortgage in both names and joint bank and credit card accounts.
  • More employers are providing their workers with these types of plans, and it doesn’t generally cost them more.
  • How to go about adding your partner to your existing plan can depend on your insurance provider. 


What Is Domestic Partner Insurance?

Some insurance companies offer domestic partner health insurance. These plans allow your partner to have the same benefits that a spouse would be entitled to. Your partner can be covered under your plan, and any children the two of you have in your custody would also be covered. You would not have to get married for them to use your insurance.

You and your partner can share health insurance costs if your plan offers this option. You could get the same lower rate for your family that a married couple would be entitled to.

Who Counts As a Domestic Partner?

It's more and more common for states to recognize domestic partnerships. But there's no single rule that defines a domestic partnership across all states as of 2022. Each sets its own definition. States also decide what legal benefits partners can receive if they're not married.

Many states will count any committed couple who are in a relationship similar to a marriage but who don't have an official marriage license.

Couples would have to have traits like a marriage in most cases. These could be sharing a home, maintaining joint bank accounts or credit cards, and sharing bills and living costs.

How to Prove You're a Domestic Partner

You'll have to prove that you meet your state's criteria for domestic partnership to get your partner on your health plan. You may have to complete and sign a form for your health insurance administrator or your employee benefits plan administrator. These forms are a way of showing that you and your partner meet certain criteria.

The information that's asked for will vary from plan to plan. You may have to show proof of some factors, such as that you share bills. Common issues on these forms include:

  • You've lived in the same home together for a certain period of time, often six months to a year.
  • Your current plan is to keep living in the same home.
  • You 're known as a couple by other people in your lives.
  • Neither of you is married to anyone else.
  • Neither of you has another partner.
  • You share basic living expenses, such as food, shelter, and other bills.

Some health care plans will ask you to provide proof that you and your partner qualify. This often involves showing that you have joint bank accounts, a shared home, or shared living expenses. Not all of these factors will be required by every insurance plan, but they may include:

  • A shared title for a car or other property
  • A rental lease with both your names on it
  • A joint deed or mortgage
  • Driver's licenses bearing the same home address
  • Proof of joint bank accounts, joint credit card accounts, or shared loans
  • A life insurance policy, retirement benefits, or a last will and testament where you're each other's primary beneficiary
  • Assignment of power of attorney

Are Children of Domestic Partners Covered?

You should be able to put your children on your plan, too, if your health insurance plan agrees that you're domestic partners. They can include your biological children, stepchildren, and children you've legally adopted.

What type of coverage you can get for them will depend on your plan. Ask your health insurance plan administrator to explain what is and isn't covered for your children's healthcare.

You should find out exactly how your children are covered if you have health insurance with a domestic partner. This will help you avoid surprise bills when you take the kids to the doctor or for emergency care.

You'll also fill out forms for any children in your care in most cases. This should let you know what type of health coverage is offered for the whole family.

How Can You Add a Partner to Your Health Plan?

Every insurance plan is different. Ask your plan administrator how to add your partner to your insurance. They'll be able to tell you what kind of insurance your partner can receive, and what forms must be filled out so that your partner can be added as soon as possible.

You may have what is known as a "qualifying life event" if you're newly established as domestic partners. This will let you change your health plan during special enrollment periods.

Most employer health plans will allow you to add a domestic partner if the plan includes this kind of coverage. 

How Do I Choose Domestic Partner Insurance?

Choosing health insurance for you and your partner is like buying any other health policy. You should research your options, including premium costs, deductibles, and level of coverage. This is the case whether you're buying private insurance, getting a plan through the Marketplace, or picking a plan offered through your job.

You may want to look into buying private insurance if the health plans offered through your job don't cover partners who aren't married.

Taking the time to research and review a health insurance policy will help you get the most out of your plan. Be sure to look up any terms you don't understand. Call customer service or talk to your HR department if there's anything you have questions about.

Employers and Domestic Partner Benefits

It used to be that couples had to be married to share an insurance plan. But many young adults ages 18 to 24 are more commonly living together without being married than living with a spouse. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15% of young adults ages 25 to 34 lived with a partner they weren't married to in 2018, up from 12% in 2008.

Employers and insurance companies have evolved health benefits coverage over time as a result of these trends. Many offer coverage for domestic partners and provide it to more families.

The Role of Gender in Domestic Partnerships

Some employers began offering domestic partner plans for couples who couldn't get married legally, such as same-sex couples or partnerships with nonbinary individuals. They're continuing to revisit their offerings in an effort to attract a wider pool of talent.

More employers may move forward given the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S., according to human resource consulting firm Aon Hewitt. They may offer spousal benefits under one umbrella to cover both domestic partnerships and marriages. This could mean that some companies may discontinue domestic partnership benefits because same-sex marriage has been legalized across all states. 

Other employers are making domestic partner benefits available to more workers to include any couple, regardless of either partners’ gender. 

Do Domestic Partner Benefits Cost an Employer More Money?

Employers may be worried about the cost of offering health insurance to domestic partners and their families, but they don't have to be. Several studies show that the cost of covering unmarried spouses does not increase more than 1% to 3% for an employer. These studies also show that the actual costs for domestic partner benefits are the same as those of married spousal benefits.

What If Your Employer Doesn't Offer Benefits for Domestic Partners?

Check with your partner's employer if your own employer doesn't provide domestic partner benefits. You can look for your own health insurance package from a private company if neither employer offers these benefits.

Make sure they provide coverage equal to or better than the plans you and your partner can get through work if you opt for alternate benefits. You may be better off maintaining separate insurance plans if they don't.

Otherwise, you have the option of asking for a waiver of health insurance benefits with your employer if you decide to buy private insurance so you can be on the same plan. You can then try to negotiate alternate compensation from your employer to replace the health insurance they don't have to pay for.  

Can You Ask Your Employer to Add Domestic Partner Benefits?

You can also ask your employer to add domestic partner benefits to your company's health insurance plan. Your employer may be more open to the idea if you can show that having plans for unmarried partners isn't more costly than having plans for married spouses.

The coverage for domestic partners can be added to most workplace health plans without too much trouble.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does it cost to add a domestic partner to my health insurance?

Costs for adding a domestic partner to your health insurance plan should be similar to the cost of adding a spouse. Adding children to your plan would present an additional cost.

Who is considered my domestic partner for insurance?

Qualifications for domestic partner status vary by state, by insurance provider, and by employer. They generally have similar criteria to what qualifies as a marriage in states where these partnerships are recognized. Check your state's laws and your company's policies to understand the criteria where you live and work.

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