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Blue Cross NC to offer plans to same-sex married couples

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BCBSNC announced Wednesday that same-sex married couples will be eligible to purchase family coverage. BCBSNC announced Wednesday that same-sex married couples will be eligible to purchase family coverage.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced Wednesday that same-sex married couples and anyone in a domestic partnership will be eligible to purchase family coverage.

The company recently received criticism for its decision not to offer Affordable Care Act plans for married same-sex couples or domestic partners. But Wednesday, the company said its decision to delay family coverage was inconsistent with its commitment to serve all North Carolina residents.

"In order to ensure that our technology was ready for the Affordable Care Act, our company chose to postpone a number of product updates until 2015. One of these was to begin making family coverage available to same-sex married couples and domestic partners ... in our ACA-approved plans," said Brad Wilson, BCBSNC President and CEO.

Wilson acknowledged that Blue Cross "should have more thoughtfully considered this decision, with full appreciation of the impact it would have."

"We're sorry we failed to do so," Wilson said.

Beginning Monday, same-sex married couples and anyone in a domestic partnership may purchase new family coverage on or off the exchange for an effective date of March 1.

Also, domestic partners and same-sex married couples who enrolled separately on ACA plans can convert them into family plans retroactive to their original effective date.

Last week, BCBSNC came under fire after it canceled family insurance policies sold to 20 gay and lesbian couples on a federal insurance marketplace because of restrictive contract language.

North Carolina's largest insurer was legally bound to invalidate the policies because of standard language in the insurer's individual policies that define "spouse" as "opposite sex," state Insurance Department spokeswoman Kerry Hall said.

The company said it planned in 2015 to change the language in order to offer insurance options to same-sex married couples and couples in domestic partnerships, but the criticism that came with the plan cancellations pushed BCBSNC to change course.

The only other insurer selling subsidized coverage on North Carolina's federally run insurance marketplace is Coventry Health, which doesn't bar same-sex couples from buying a family policy, spokesman Walt Cherniak said.

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