The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”) announced last week that same-sex married couples can now qualify for Medicare Part A and Part B special enrollment periods and reductions in late enrollment penalties.

This policy change results from the groundbreaking 2013 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, was unconstitutional.  Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility for, Medicare.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated that the Medicare changes will help “to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that all married couples are treated equally under the law.”

Medicare’s website encourages people who are in, or really are a surviving spouse of, a same-sex marriage, to try to get Medicare when they believe that they could be qualified. Individuals in civil unions or domestic (or existence) partnerships aren’t considered spouses of these purposes.

Secretary Sebelius added that HHS is “working along with [the Social Security Administration (“SSA”)] to process these [enrollment] demands on time to make sure all beneficiaries, no matter sexual orientation, are treated fairly underneath the law.”

More information for same-sex couples who may be qualified for Medicare can be obtained here.