The Office of General Counsel issued the following informal opinion on September 25, 2000, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
RE: Domestic Partnership Registration
Is there any provision of the New York Insurance Law or regulations that would prohibit a licensed insurer from issuing family coverage to a city employee who has presented a "certificate of domestic partner registration" to obtain family coverage under the city employees health insurance program?
No provision of the Insurance Law or regulations would prohibit a licensed insurer from issuing family coverage to a city employee based upon that employees presentation of a "certificate of domestic partner registration."
A city employee has requested family coverage under the city employees health insurance program. The health insurance program offers employees and their "families" a variety of options. Many of the coverage packages are provided by insurers licensed by the New York State Insurance Department.
The employee has presented a "certificate of domestic partnership registration" and asked to enroll for "family" coverage. New York City has requested the Department to determine whether any Insurance Law or regulation would prohibit an insurer from issuing such coverage.
N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 3-241 (Cum. Supp. 1998) provides that a "domestic partnership" may be registered with the city clerk by two people who file an affidavit stating that they meet a number of qualifications specified in the statute. Of relevance here is the requirement that, "[t]he persons have a close and committed personal relationship, live together and have been living together on a continuous basis." N.Y.C. Admin. Code
§ 3-241(a)(6) (Cum. Supp. 1998).
N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 3-244 (Cum. Supp. 1998) provides that the certificate of domestic partnership registration shall constitute notice of a registered domestic partnership when persons apply for "[h]ealth benefits provided by the city to city employees and retirees and eligible members of their families, pursuant to stipulation or collective bargaining. . . ." N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 3-244(f) (Cum. Supp. 1998).
The statutory scheme makes apparent the intent to confer certain rights and benefits upon domestic partners, although the term "notice" could be otherwise interpreted. N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 3-244 (Cum. Supp. 1998). An employee presenting evidence that he or she is legally married would be entitled to secure family coverage without submitting further evidence as to the specific nature of that relationship. N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 3-244 (Cum. Supp. 1998) appears to give registered domestic partners equal status.
From this Departments perspective, the issue is whether any provision of the Insurance Law or regulations would prohibit a licensee from providing "family" coverage to a city employee (and his or her partner) who has presented New York City with a properly filed certificate of domestic partner relationship.
No Insurance Law statute or regulation makes reference to "domestic partners." However, the statutes dealing with group health insurance provide that benefits may cover specified expenses of "the employee or other member of the insured group, his spouse, his child or children, or other persons chiefly dependent upon him for support and maintenance. . . ." N.Y Ins. Law § § 4235(f) and 4305(c) (McKinney 1985 and Supp. 2000).
The statute does not limit coverage to a traditional family unit. Nor does it distinguish based upon whether the "employee or other member" (the primary insured) is the sole support for the other person(s) who will be covered or even whether he or she is the primary wage earner for the "unit."
The term "dependency" includes both situations of unilateral dependency and mutual interdependence, which may be evidenced by a nexus of factors, such as common ownership of property, common householding, shared budgeting, length of the relationship, etc. The presence or absence of any one factor would not be dispositive.
To register as domestic partners, the city employee and his or her partner must affirm that they have a close and committed personal relationship, live together and have been living together on a continuous basis. No Insurance Law or regulation would prohibit a licensed health insurer from providing them "family" coverage" pursuant to New York Citys health insurance program.
For further information, you may contact Associate Attorney Sam Wachtel at the New York City Office.