Will Supreme Court Rulings Simplify Benefit Administration For All Spouses?

Gavel and heart photo

Last Thursday, June 25th, the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling that subsidies received through the federal exchange would be upheld. The ruling upholds a major tenet of the health-care law enabling millions of Americans to keep the tax subsidies that help them buy and afford health coverage under the law.

The day after the subsidy ruling, the Supreme Court issued yet another landmark ruling on gay marriage. In a 5-4 ruling, the court determined that states must issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, as well as recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.


Both rulings are far reaching and could pose challenges to employers. Large employers subject to the employer mandate beginning this year (or next – depending on employer size) should continue on the ACA compliance path. It’s business as usual, but employers should pay close attention to offering coverage that meets affordability and minimum value to at least 95% of the employer’s full-time employee population.

As stated in the April issue of Benefits Spotlight, large employers should have begun gathering and tracking information needed for IRS and employee reporting. The new tax forms are complex with a series of codes and employee-specific coverage data fields. The same-sex marriage ruling will have a different impact depending on whether an employer is private or public, as well as whether it’s fully insured or self-insured. The legality of same-sex marriage brings up new questions on current domestic partnership policies in place for many employers. Domestic partner benefits may decline as employers reassess their human-resources (HR) plans following the ruling.

In the long run, the decision will help simplify benefits and administration since all spouses will be treated uniformly.