In response to last month's historic gay-marriage rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, CalPERS' health plan is holding a special open-enrollment period for same-sex couples who were previously married.
The enrollment period, which began this week, is for gay couples who had gotten married before the court decisions but shied away from the CalPERS coverage because of provisions in DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Because of DOMA, gay employees on CalPERS' health plan were allowed to enroll their spouses but had to pay federal taxes on their partners' benefits.
The Supreme Court declared part of DOMA unconstitutional June 26, the same day it advanced legal gay marriage in California by refusing to rule on Proposition 8.
With DOMA gone, CalPERS members no longer have to worry about the tax consequences if they enroll their spouses in the health plan.
But there was a hang-up. Gay employees who had already wed – including those who got married in 2008, the brief window when same-sex marriage was first legal in California – couldn't enroll their spouses. That's because newlyweds normally have just 60 days to enroll their spouses in CalPERS' health plan.
Now the California Public Employees' Retirement System has addressed that issue. Effective immediately, those employees can enroll their spouses through a "one-time exception" announced by CalPERS.
"Now that DOMA has been struck down, we're going to offer this opportunity," said CalPERS spokeswoman Amy Norris. The enrollment window ends Dec. 31.
Separately, DOMA also prevented gay employees from enrolling their spouses at all in CalPERS' long-term care insurance program. A group of couples sued CalPERS over that ban, and the case was making its way through the courts when the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA.
The long-term care program is now open to gay spouses, although they'll have to wait a while to buy in. The long-term care problem has been closed off to new enrollees for five years because of financial problems. But it has raised premiums substantially and will start taking on new customers in December.
Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.