Washington Domestic Partner Law Goes Into Effect

December 3, 2009

Washington State’s new domestic partnership law goes into effect today, and that means wherever a policy says ‘spouse’ the policy must cover registered domestic partners, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said.

Writing on his state insurance blog, Kreidler said the new law was pretty straightforward for most types of insurance. If a policy covers a spouse, that policy covers a domestic partner, provided that partner is registered with the state.

A possible exception is health insurance, where the partner’s employer self-insures. State laws do not apply to self-insurers, Kreidler said.

The law effects 13,000 persons in Washington State.

The Commissioner put together the following list of expected questions and answers.

Is my domestic partner now covered by my health insurance?

Not necessarily. If your insurance plan covers your spouse, it must offer you the option to add your state registered domestic partner to your policy. Check with your insurance company on how to get your partner covered.

Also, some large employers self insure their employees and may be exempt from the new state law. If you’re not sure what type of health plan you have, contact our Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-562-6900.

Is my domestic partner automatically covered by my auto and home insurance?

Under the new law, your state registered domestic partner is considered your family member, the same as a spouse. You should contact your insurance companies to inform them of your state registered domestic partnership. You will need to find out by reading your policies or asking your insurance companies how your coverage applies to your registered domestic partner. For example, many auto insurance policies cover you and any family member who drives your car.

I have a partner but we’re not registered with the state. Does that matter?

Yes. You must be registered with the State of Washington or another state that registers domestic partnerships in order to include your partner as a family member on your insurance. Registration is handled by the Secretary of State’s office. It costs $50. In Washington, you can register by mail, but the forms must be notarized.

What do I have to do to notify my insurer of my domestic partnership?

Contact your insurer and provide proof of your registered domestic partnership. This proof can be the certificate that you were provided by the state when you registered your domestic partnership. To find out if other forms of proof are acceptable, contact your insurer directly.

As a registered domestic partner, will I automatically become the beneficiary of my partner’s life insurance policy?

No. The person whose life is insured designates his or her beneficiary. In order for you to be the beneficiary of your domestic partner’s life insurance policy, they must designate you as the beneficiary.

Can either my partner or I make changes to our insurance coverages?

Either of you may add the other as a family member covered under his or her insurance policy. This law does not change anything else about your insurance; you may still make changes that were allowable before. In general, only the principal person on the policy can make changes. For example, if you obtained health insurance through your employer, you as an employee would be the principal insured. Check with your insurer to find out who has the authority to make changes to your policy.

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