California Sen. Barbara Boxer reintroduced the Equal Access to COBRA Act in the US Senate Thursday. The bill would give domestic partners of a partner who loses their job the same access to COBRA health coverage as married spouses currently enjoy. The legislation covers companies that already offer health benefits for domestic partners and their children – right now, that’s more than half of Fortune 500 companies.
Boxer said in a statement:
“All of our families deserve equal access to health insurance. This bill would help ensure that domestic partners and their families will be able to keep their health coverage if their partner loses their job.”Under federal law, employers are required to offer COBRA -continuing health care coverage for up to 36 months – when an employee leaves the company. Same sex couples are not covered, however, even if the company has DP benefits for their employees. Boxer’s bill would apply to domestic partners as they are defined by an employer’s health insurance plan.
Boxer announced her intention to offer the COBRA bill last year at both the Human Rights Campaign dinner, where she was the keynote speaker, and at the Rock for Equality rally to change Social Security laws to cover domestic partners, organized by the LA Gay and Lesbian Center.
Last year, I asked openly gay Rep. Barney Frank about the Boxer COBRA bill and the Social Security bill from Rep. Linda Sanchez. Frank said:
“I was very disappointed that that [COBRA] was left out of the healthcare bill. And that’s part of the problem we have – we have no Republicans on the healthcare bill. We tried to get the tax benefits and we lost because this whole domestic partnership thing is controversial with no Republican votes and the margin was so close. I was very frustrated. I worked very hard to try to get that done. So I am not optimistic about anything in that area.
I think it’s very important. The only chance we have on any domestic partnership thing this year would be the bill I had once introduced – Tammy [Baldwin] picked it up – for federal employee benefits [the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act]. That one has a chance – I don’t think any other domestic partnership has a chance.”