SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders
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For Immediate Release

August 29, 2013

SAGE Applauds Post-DOMA Guidance by HHS that Improves the Well-being of Same-Sex Couples

[Washington, DC] The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released guidance clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in the nursing home where their spouse lives—including legally married same-sex spouses. The memo, issued to private companies that contract with Medicare to provide coverage, confirms that legally married same-sex couples must receive the same benefits and joint placement offered to heterosexual couples in nursing homes that accept Medicare, regardless of where they live. This is the first guidance released by HHS implementing the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Today’s announcement by HHS is a significant step toward ensuring that LGBT elders who are married receive the care they need from aging services providers,” said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE. “While most Medicare beneficiaries have long been entitled to care in the nursing home where their spouse resides, same-sex couples have often been forced to choose between receiving care in a nursing home away from their spouse or paying out-of-pocket costs to stay in the same facility. Extending these benefits to legally married same-sex couples gives them the respect of equal treatment and the comfort of remaining united with their loved one when both are in long-term care.”

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, or people younger than 65 that meet criteria for certain disabilities. Today’s HHS announcement will initiate more equal coverage for the millions of LGBT older people who rely on Medicare.

The HHS guidance is one of two post-DOMA announcements released by the Obama Administration today. The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

SAGE is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people. SAGE also offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE coordinates a growing network of affiliates across the country. Learn more at

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