When does a domestic partnership begin? (health insurance)

The insurance company in question is Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s an opposite-sex domestic partnership, if it matters (my employer covers both same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships, so I don’t think it does). My boyfriend and I were long-distance for awhile, but I only just moved in with him last month. To get him onto my health insurance before we’re married, we could declare ourself domestically-partnered. To be domestic partners, we have to have “been together” for 6 months. Does that counter start from the date we started dating, or the date we moved in together? Or when?

Bonus question: can he be denied health coverage through my employer if he has a pre-existing condition?

Are you saying that your employer covers domestic partners even if you just SAY you are domestic partners and don’t have a formal state-recognized agreement? Wow. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

You’d have to ask the carrier or your employer how they are defining it. There is certainly no generally recognized rule about this that I know of. And same goes for the pre-ex situation. If your employer has determined that an informal (as in not-government-recognized) opposite-sex partner is tantamount to being a dependent, then no, they shouldn’t be able to exclude him. But this is very unusual territory so who knows?

The generally clock starts running when you start living together. But I don’t think anyone can give you a firm answer; you have to check with your employer - I think some even impose waiting periods anyway.

Domestic partnership is a legal status in New York State. it begins when you go down to the clerk’s office, pay $35, and get registered as domestic partners.

Your insurance company can tell you if this is indeed required. At my husband’s office, they offered benefits for domestic partners, but you had to be registered.

When I worked in health insurance in New York you had to be a registered domestic partnership to be covered on a policy. Go down and get registered tomorrow and you can put your domestic partner on your policy ASAP.

The last place I worked in Colorado, over 10 years ago now, pretty much had that. There was no formal state-recognized thing at the time, and Mr. Athena and I weren’t married yet, but my health insurance covered him. I think we had to sign a written statement saying that we’d lived together as partners for greater than 6 months or something.

I’m currently reviewing the policies of the job offer I’m about to accept, and they have a domestic partner policy. It pretty much boils down to you have to have lived together for 12 consecutive months, be 18 years of age or older, not married or have another domestic partner relationship for at least 12 months, not related by blood, are jointly responsible for living expenses, and have 4 of the following: joint bank account, joint credit cards, jointly owned residence, household expenses, designating each other as sole beneficiary/executor or evidence of other joint financial responsibilities.

Apparently a lot of “domestic partnership” entails paying each others bills!

INAL, so I’d leave that to them as to what’s legal or not.

As far as the health insurance goes, a lot depends on the policy that company buys to cover its employees through that carrier for that plan year. Evidently, its a long drawn out contract between the two companies with actuarial tables determining cost to the employer vs coverage of the employees at what level, in what area, to what degree, with what deductible or with what cap, and when (start vs finish).

The summary plan description of the specific health insurance offered alone can be a few dozen pages long and as complex as tax code, but given the circumstances, I’d read it. It details the plan that the company bought from the carrier with all its limitations. Actually, if they are head hunting you and want you, ask them to show you a copy of last year’s (current years?) summary plan description of their benefits & jump right to the chapter on Domestic Partnership.

Its funny that I mentioned tax code, because some of this may specifically be driven by IRS tax code over what must be considered imputed income or not (Is that IRS section 502? Someone with more tax experience please jump in).
But carriers are generally up to speed on IRS code and won’t risk selling something that breaks the law.

Can one sign up a domestic partner outside the enrollment period?


That’s how it used to work at my employer in Massachusetts. You signed an affidavit stating that you are domestic partners (gay or straight). After same-sex marriage became legal in MA they stopped providing benefits to domestic partners and now only provide them to married couples (again, gay or straight).

My employer does that. It’s pretty common.

Of course you obviously can’t just “say that you’re domestic partners”. It’s more complicated than that. At my company you have to meet certain criteria like cohabitation, having a joint bank account, both being on the lease/mortgage and powers of attorney. There were like eight things and you have to meet at least five of them or something. It was also expected that you were significant others rather than roommates. Gender didn’t enter into it at all.

For any specifics, you’d have to look at your own employer’s contract. Obviously every one is going to be different since this is as much employee policy as it is law.

In mine you did have to be living together for a certain amount of time (six or nine months) and pre-existing conditions weren’t an issue since they aren’t for a regular marriage.


I’ve seen policies where Domestic Partnership is concretely defined as satisfying all of a specific list of circumstances (which the employee is asked to report to HR w/i 30 days of that last one being satisfied). Inside that 30 day window, it was called a “qualifying life event”, and the DP could be added to the benefits at that point, to be covered from that point onward. Miss that window and the carrier could say “too bad, next enrollment period” which could be almost a year away.

But every policy is different (please read and keep that summary plan description) and as the guest lecturer from the HR was oh-so fond of saying,
“In this state, the company is under no legal obligation to offer you Any healthcare benefits. insert smug pause here:frowning:

Yes, at my employer. Just like if you got married outside the enrollment period.

I think all insurance programs allow changes outside the enrollment period for a “life event.” Life events are births, adoptions, marriages, domestic partnerships, spouse losing their job so you both have to switch to the other insurance, etc.

A warning from my past experience… they might treat the cost of the insurance for your partner as “income” to you for tax purposes which ultimately makes the cost of the insurance a lot more.

As has been said, depends on the employer.

I am on my girlfriend’s policy. The criteria at her workplace is:

We live together (no duration requirement)

We share transportation expenses

. . . that’s it.

My employer makes you sign an affidavit that affirms the following:


  1. Both do not have a legal spouse.
  2. Your domestic partner is of the same or opposite sex and is at least age 18 or older; and:
    • You share a committed, exclusive relationship;
    • You share a residence;
    • You are financially interdependent; and
    • You are not a blood relative or any closer than would prohibit legal marriage.

There appears to be no time limit required.

YMMV, of course. I’d check your company’s website.


I was thinking more of what you are describing, and less of hajario’s scenario, which sounds a little more like a registered domestic partnership. For instance, “as of next Thursday my partner and I have been living together for six months, and that’s the last qualification for domestic partnership. Accordingly, please add my partner to my coverage.”

It would be easier to track if there were such a thing as a registration of domestic partnership, or gay marriage if such a thing existed in your state. Of course, disallowing domestic partnership and only allowing married people (gay or straight) to access each other’s health insurance means everybody has to take the risk of divorce if they want health care coverage.

I imagine you have to do the same kind of de-registering of a domestic partnership as one would do for a divorce.

Life in the twenty-first century keeps getting more complicated.


Here’s the insurance company’s list of criteria to be considered domestic partners:

And a subset of section 7 defines what constitutes joint responsibility:

Although an official domestic partnership agreement is one of the possible ways to prove a domestic partnership, it’s not strictly necessary. We already have a joint lease, plan to get a joint checking account, and could do one more of those things, like writing our wills out or putting each other as our life insurance beneficiaries or setting up healthcare POAs (not sure how that works for 2 young healthy people, though). Seems pretty cool, eh? I mean, we definitely intend to get married in the future anyway. But weddings take time, and are more irrevocable than a relatively-simple domestic partnership. In the meantime, it sure would be nice to get him on my health insurance!

That’s very similar to the one that my company has. I had my now ex gf on mine for a couple of years. You can get a sample POA online and print them out and sign them. That’s what we did. No need for a lawyer in our case.

Thanks! Seems pretty simple. His insurance options through his employer (well, option, he only has one) is really really terrible.