Supreme Court's DOMA ruling expands long-term care insurance options in California

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Some same-sex couples in the nation's most populous state will have expanded access to long-term care financing, following two historic U.S. Supreme Court decisions announced Wednesday.

In one ruling, the high court let stand a lower court's ruling that invalidated Proposition 8. Proposition 8 was a California ballot measure that rolled back same-sex marriage rights in the state, which had existed for six months starting in May 2008. The Supreme Court's decision paved the way for gay marriages to resume in California.

California same-sex couples who wed in 2008 did not receive all the same benefits as heterosexual couples, due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. For example, gay couples were not allowed to receive long-term care insurance through the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), which is governed by federal tax laws. This led to a lawsuit filed last year by a nurse seeking coverage for his husband. 

By striking down a key provision of DOMA that defined marriage as between a man and a woman only, the Supreme Court effectively decided that CalPERS lawsuit in favor of the plaintiffs.

Under Wednesday's 5-4 decision, the federal government must grant full marriage benefits to same-sex couples in states that allow gay marriage. This means CalPERS will begin to offer its long-term care coverage to same-sex couples, the fund confirmed to the Sacramento Bee.

But it's a mixed victory: Financial issues have plagued CalPERS, leading the organization to raise premiums and stop accepting new applications for enrollment. CalPERS' describes its long-term care coverage as the "only voluntary, self-funded, not-for-profit program" of its kind in the country, giving public employees and other eligible participants a way of financing skilled nursing, in-home and other types of care.