On July 31, 2013, the Minnesota Departments of Commerce and Health issued a joint bulletin to all insurers authorized to write business in Minnesota that offer dependent coverage. The bulletin provides guidance to insurers following the state's enactment of a law recognizing same-sex marriage, which became effective on August 1, 2013. 

Here are the highlights of the bulletin:

  • Effective August 1, 2013, any policy issued in Minnesota that provides dependent coverage for spouses must make that coverage available on the same terms and conditions regardless of the sex of the spouse. 
  • Any property/casualty policy that provides a rating or liability benefit because two residents in the same household are married must afford that benefit regardless of the sex of the spouses.
  • Defining "spouse" in a way that limits coverage to opposite-sex spouses will be considered an unfair and discriminatory practice.
  • Insurers must consider same-sex couples who reside in Minnesota and were legally married in another state prior to August 1, 2013, to be legally married in Minnesota as of that date. 
  • For policy forms that have already been filed in Minnesota, the term "spouse" must be construed as including same-sex spouses. 
  • The bulletin does not apply to plans or policies that are regulated under ERISA or that are otherwise outside of the state's regulatory jurisdiction.

Minnesota is just the latest state to weigh in on insurance coverage issues affecting same-sex couples, and more states will issue guidance following the Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Insurers should keep a close eye on this rapidly evolving (and sometimes tricky) area of the law so that they remain in compliance with laws recognizing same-sex marriages and civil unions.