I'm off in a few minutes for another trail-clearing project with the store. Should you be passing by Burlington, MA anytime soon, check out Mary Cummings Park
and then come visit The Bean about a half-mile away.)
Let's think about healthcare today. How many of you out there pay your insurance through your employer as a pre-tax deduction? It should be everybody, unless you're a member of a special underclass of American society.
Up until quite recently, certain groups could pay out-of-pocket to add a non-qualified partner or dependent to their health coverage. I'm talking about You, you gay-married subversives with college-age kids! While a lot of places didn't prevent you from having coverage, they made you pay for it. And then the Feds added insult to injury. Because the out-of-pocket expense is deducted after taxes, it's considered "Imputed Income
", and is thus taxable.
So, in most places, not only do people have to jump through hoops to get insurance, then pay out-of-pocket to add partners and/or children, then they have to pay taxes on it, too.
But all that changed over the summer.
On June 26, the Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage act to be unconstitutional.
WASHINGTON -- The Defense of Marriage Act, the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday by a 5-4 vote.
"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."
Justice Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion, and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito all filed dissenting opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia's dissent in whole and parts of Alito's opinion.
As Kennedy read the majority opinion from the bench, cries were heard in the courtroom when the justice delivered the verdict that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment. A number of same-sex couples sitting in the audience looked up at the ceiling, while others wiped away tears.
DOMA, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, prevented same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized by their home state from receiving the hundreds of benefits available to other married couples under federal law. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department initially defended DOMA in court despite the administration’s desire to repeal it. But the Justice Department changed course in early 2011, finding that the law was unconstitutional and declining to defend it any longer. (The majority opinion slightly criticized that decision on Wednesday, writing that the "failure to defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress based on a constitutional theory not yet established in judicial decisions" had "created a procedural dilemma.") House Republicans have since spent hundreds of thousands of dollars taking over that defense.
Plaintiff Edie Windsor, 84, sued the federal government after the Internal Revenue Service denied her refund request for the $363,000 in federal estate taxes she paid after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009.
I'm sure everyone is familiar with "open enrollment"….it's that magical, once-a-year period where anyone with insurance can shop around and update, change, or leave things without penalty from their employer or the Feds. It's often tied to the end of the fiscal year, and unless you have a "qualifying event" during the year, most of the time if you need to change something, you're SOL.
So I was surprised and pleased to receive the following missive from our HR department at FCHP:
On June 26th the United States Supreme Court announced that a section of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The consequence of this decision is that the spouses and children of an employee in a same sex marriage may now be allowed to access coverage on a pre-tax basis under some of our employee benefit plans as well as enjoy some additional federal protections under COBRA and FMLA as an example. Conversely, a same sex married employee may wish to leave their current benefit plan and join their spouse’s benefit plan with another employer. If you are in a same sex marriage, please feel free to contact the Human Resources Department at 508-368-9893 to review your current benefit elections in the event you wish to add your same sex spouse. We will allow a limited special open enrollment period from September 16 to September 27, 2013 in order to allow employees in same sex marriages to revisit their benefit elections consistent with the guidance above.
If you are currently covering a same sex spouse on your medical, dental and/or vision plan(s), as of pay date September 12, 2013 you will no longer be paying imputed income. We are still waiting for guidance from the IRS on how far back to retro the imputed income that you paid in 2013; we will let you know as soon as we receive guidance from the IRS.
So, once again, something the President did is having impact on real people. If you're in a same-sex relationship, or have to carry your aging children on your own insurance….well now, you can take those payments out pre-tax and no longer have to report that as taxable income. Which means some of us out there in these United States may see a little more take-home pay, or a smaller tax bill next year. And as for the rest of us....ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
But of course, you can't tell the Republicans that. I'm looking forward to vote #42 next week.