Same-sex marriage causing confusion for insurance companies

On Monday the first same-sex couple is eligible to be married in La Crosse County as long as a stay has not been issued before then.

This waiting game is leading to a lot questions that need to be answered for insurance companies.

Just like county clerks have been confused with the rulings, insurance providers aren’t too sure what they should be doing either. Companies are facing a lot of hypothetical and what-if situations.

“It’s a whirlwind right now,” Jerry Denboer from Benefit Advisors said. “I’ve called and talked to my carriers the last two days and ‘What are we going to do?’ and they’re like, ‘I don’t know.'”

One thing they do know, if a marriage is recognized by the state then that couple will be offered coverage.

“People that have formalized their relationship and gotten married are pretty much going to have to be offered coverage at this point in time until that injunction takes place,” Denboer said.

But one attorney says same-sex couples are taking a bit of risk by marrying before the law is completely sorted out.

“They can’t ensure that the marriage will continue to be lawful or that they will be entitled to get their refund for the money they paid to get the marriage license, things like that,” Attorney Joe Veenstra said.

Veenstra said there is a lot of difficulty in deciding how the law is actually supposed to be enforced when everything is so up in the air.

“I think the local officials are put in a tough position because the individuals have been told that they have a right to be married, there’s no doubt about that from the opinion and their job is to let them get married, they have forms that allow them to do that if an individual comes and says we want to be married and a federal court has told everyone they have a right to do so, local officials are kind of hard pressed not to let them do so,” Veenstra said.

Those couples that do chose to marry though will be receiving all the same benefits.

“These marriages have become (legally binding) so how do you back that out? You can’t really take that away,” Denboer said.

He said when talking to insurance providers the past few days all say the same thing, they don’t really know what to do right now so they’re just waiting for applications to start coming in.

So far there have been two marriage applications filed in La Crosse County.