Since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibition against the recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships created under a growing number of state laws in Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor, Department of Justice and other federal agencies have rushed to adjust regulations, enforcement polices and other interpretations to not only comply with the Court’s prohibition against government agencies refusing to recognize those relationships but also in many cases to require private employers and businesses treat same-sex domestic partners in various circumstances as entitled to the same rights as traditionally enjoyed by traditionally married couples.

While many private businesses may question the applicability of the Supreme Court’s Windsor holding based on constitutional rights owed by government to citizens to private industry and other questions remain about the meaning and scope of the court’s decision, same-sex couples and their employers should consider the advisability of taking prompt action to preserve potential rights to claim refunds or other tax rights under existing IRS guidance issued in response to the Windsor decision.   For instance, certain same-sex couples and their employers may be eligible not only to claim more favorable tax treatment or qualify for treatment in parity for employee benefit plan, income tax and certain other purposes, some couples and their employers also wish to consider amending their past tax returns to claim past dependent status for years where DOMA previously precluded this.  To do so, however, affected parties must act quickly to avoid forfeiting their rights.

To help with this process, the IRS recently released a U-Tube video that it intends to educate affected parties to understand its current policies and their refund and other rights. You Tube: Tax Information about
Same-Sex Marriage
.

Interested persons should review these and other resources and consult qualified tax counsel for advice if they wish to explore their options.

In addition to the tax guidance, a host of other agencies have issued guidance in response to the Windsor decision.  For instance, the Department of Justice has announced that it views same-sex couples in domestic partnerships created in accordance with an applicable state law as enjoying the same rights as traditionally married couples for purposes of federal rules of evidence and other dealings with the Justice Department.  Meanwhile the Department of Labor has said that it considers such couples entitled to rights equivalent to traditionally married couples for purposes of the Family & Medical Leave Act and certain other laws.  A host of other agencies have issued their own guidance or announcements construing how Windsor impacts their rules.  Meanwhile, various challenges and court cases already are emerging that seek to clarify the scope and meaning of the decision as it relates to various rights and laws, obligations of states and private businesses and others, and other matters.  Affected same-sex domestic partners and their employers should monitor these developments while seeking advice from qualified legal counsel about their specific situations when deciding how to respond to Windsor and the resulting emerging guidance.

About Project COPE: The Coalition On Patient Empowerment & Its  Coalition on Responsible Health Policy

Do you have feedback or other experiences to share about medical debit, ACA or other health care challenges?  Have ideas for helping improve our system, helping Americans cope with these and other health care challenges or other health care matters? Know other helpful resources or experiences that you are willing to share?  Are you concerned about health care coverage or other health care and disability issues or policy concerns?  Join the discussion and share your input by joining Project COPE: Coalition for Patient Empowerment here.

Sharing and promoting the use of practical practices, tools, information and ideas that patients and their families, health care providers, employers, health plans, communities and policymakers can share and offer to help patients, their families and others in their care communities to understand and work together to better help the patients, their family and their professional and private care community plan for and manage these  needs is the purpose of Project COPE, The Coalition on Patient Empowerment & It’s Affiliate, the Coalition on Responsible Health Policy.

The best opportunity to improve access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans is for every American, and every employer, insurer, and community organization to seize the opportunity to be good Samaritans.  The government, health care providers, insurers and community organizations can help by providing education and resources to make understanding and dealing with the realities of illness, disability or aging easier for a patient and their family, the affected employers and others. At the end of the day, however, caring for people requires the human touch.  Americans can best improve health care by not waiting for someone else to step up:  Step up and help bridge the gap when you or your organization can. Speak up to help communicate and facilitate when you can.  Building health care neighborhoods filled with good neighbors throughout the community is the key.

The outcome of this latest health care reform push is only a small part of a continuing process.  Whether or not the Affordable Care Act makes financing care better or worse, the same challenges exist.  The real meaning of the enacted reforms will be determined largely by the shaping and implementation of regulations and enforcement actions which generally are conducted outside the public eye.  Americans individually and collectively clearly should monitor and continue to provide input through this critical time to help shape constructive rather than obstructive policy. Regardless of how the policy ultimately evolves, however, Americans, American businesses, and American communities still will need to roll up their sleeves and work to deal with the realities of dealing with ill, aging and disabled people and their families.  While the reimbursement and coverage map will change and new government mandates will confine providers, payers and patients, the practical needs and challenges of patients and families will be the same and confusion about the new configuration will create new challenges as patients, providers and payers work through the changes.

We also encourage you and others to help develop real meaningful improvements by joining Project COPE: Coalition for Patient Empowerment here by sharing ideas, tools and other solutions and other resources. The Coalition For Responsible Health Care Policy provides a resource that concerned Americans can use to share, monitor and discuss the Health Care Reform law and other health care, insurance and related laws, regulations, policies and practices and options for promoting access to quality, affordable healthcare through the design, administration and enforcement of these regulations.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here .  You also can get access to information about how you can arrange for training on “Building Your Family’s Health Care Toolkit,”  using the “PlayForLife” resources to organize low-cost wellness programs in your workplace, school, church or other communities, and other process improvement, compliance and other training and other resources for health care providers, employers, health plans, community leaders and others here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here. You can reach other recent updates and other informative publications and resources.

Recent examples of these publications include:

For important information about this communication click here.

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