BlueCross and BlueShield of Illinois makes Eligibility Decisions on Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act
As previously announced in the Feb. 9, 2011 issue of News from the Blues, Public Act 96-1513, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, was signed into law on Jan. 31, 2011. Effective June 1, 2011, the law’s intent is to provide procedures for the certification and registration of a civil union in Illinois. Any person who enters into a civil union in Illinois consents to the jurisdiction of the courts of Illinois for the purpose of any action related to a civil union.
Also defined are prohibited civil unions and the process for dissolution as dictated by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Illinois residency is not an explicit requirement for an Illinois civil union. Illinois will offer “reciprocity” and recognize as a civil union any same-sex marriage, civil union, domestic partnership or substantially similar legal relationship, other than common law, entered into in other states. Additionally, the law does not link domestic partnership to civil union.
Since this is not an insurance law, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) has made the following business decisions:
- Spouses of civil unions will be eligible for coverage if the policy covers spouses in marriage for BCBSIL fully insured individual and group business, including HMOs, as well as self-funded state municipalities, school districts and counties, just as most insurance laws would typically apply to these entities.
- The law will extend to BCBSIL contracts issued and delivered in Illinois, regardless of where the member resides.
- Although the law provides religious organizations the freedom to choose not to officiate or solemnize a civil union based on their religious practices, as an employer, religious organizations are required to extend benefits as mandated by law. Therefore, if the religious organization is fully insured or offers fully insured products (such as HMO), the law will also apply to them.
- * All other self-funded ASO business will have the option to choose to provide coverage to a civil union spouse and dependents. The ASO Benefit Program Application (BPA) will be updated to accommodate this selection.
For insured business, coverage will be offered to a civil union spouse and dependents upon the qualifying life event of the BCBSIL member entering into a civil union on or after June 1, 2011. If the member does not elect to change their coverage within 31 days of entering into a civil union, the next opportunity will be upon the employer group’s open enrollment period. For group coverage, it is the employer group’s responsibility to determine eligibility, just as it is currently.
ASO municipalities, counties and school districts and ASO customers that choose to do so, should offer coverage to a civil union spouse and dependents upon their renewal as of June 1, 2011 and thereafter.
Existing BCBSIL members who have previously entered into a civil union as legalized by another state are able to add their civil union spouse and dependents upon the employer group’s next open enrollment.
Certificate language is under review in order to determine any applicable or necessary changes. With the exception of the ASO BPA, there will not be any changes to any other business forms or collateral materials (such as highlight sheets, product reference guides, enrollment guides, etc.). There are no changes to any of our health, dental or life products and/or benefit plans. Generally, civil unions will be treated the same as traditional marriages.
The Illinois Department of Insurance (IDOI) is expected to issue an insurance FAQ on the law in early spring 2011 and BCBSIL will make any appropriate adjustments based on the IDOI’s direction.