LSU is getting ahead of the Jindal administration in expanding its health insurance coverage to spouses in same-sex marriages.
The state Office of Group Benefits is awaiting an IRS determination, but LSU First — the university’s insurance plan — has decided to move forward without it.
“LSU First is the university’s plan, so we have control of coverage on it,” LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said Wednesday. “We are signing people up and providing coverage.”
LSU First covers close to 20,000 employees and dependents. There are about 10,000 plan members. The plan is open to LSU employees as well as legislators and those who work for them. Not all university employees are enrolled in the LSU First Health Plan.
Others have coverage through a state-administered Group Benefits plan, which has not yet expanded coverage, citing need for guidance from the IRS. Group Benefits covers about 230,000 state employees, retirees, teachers and their dependents.
Susan West, the executive officer for Group Benefits, expressed surprise Wednesday at the LSU First decision.
“I don’t know what is prompting that,” West said. “But we will be reaching out to get some clarification from them tomorrow on how they are acting for LSU First versus Group Benefits participants.”
West said LSU’s approach is different from the guidance given to a lot of states. She said Group Benefits is following the advice of its lawyers in delaying coverage.
Group Benefits is allowing new spouses and their dependents to enroll within 30 days of their marriage. But those married to a same-sex partner prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriages are being told they have to wait to enroll.
A marriage is considered a “qualifying change in status event” allowing for insurance enrollment outside the normal annual period. Group Benefits is waiting for the IRS to weigh in on whether the recent court ruling is also to be considered a “qualifying change” allowing immediate sign-up of those previously married to a same-sex partner. Once that occurs, a limited midyear special enrollment period will be provided for previously married same-sex couples, Division of Administration spokesman Gregory Dupuis said.
Otherwise, they would have to wait for the regular annual enrollment period, which is Oct. 1 through Nov. 15.
LSU First took a different stance.
“In light of the Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015, regarding same-sex marriages and insurance benefits, we are now taking enrollment forms for any employees who may be affected by this decision,” an email to LSU Agricultural Center employees stated. The email had an enrollment form attached.