Blue Access for Employers

Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act Takes Effect June 1, 2011

Please note that this summary is for informational purposes and is not intended to be legal advice or relied upon as such.

The new Illinois Religious Freedom Protection & Civil Union Act (Public Act 96-1513) takes effect June 1, 2011. While this is not an insurance act, it does afford same sex and opposite sex couples entering into a civil union, the same obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.

Under the Act, a person is a "party to a civil union" if they establish a civil union under a licensing process established by the Illinois Director of Public Health. This process includes obtaining a license from the county clerk's office, paying appropriate fees, having the ceremony performed within 60 days of the date of the license, and returning the certified license to the clerk's office. Illinois residency is not an explicit requirement, and Illinois will recognize civil unions or substantially similar unions entered into in other states with similar laws.

Guidance published by the Cook County Clerk's office recognizes health insurance in a list of benefits that a party to a civil union is entitled to under law. The new law provides that a "party to a civil union" is to be included in any definition used in state law where the term "spouse," "family" or other terms that denote "spousal relationship" are stated.

Civil Union Coverage
BCBSIL will provide civil union coverage as follows:

  • For insured business and non-ERISA ASO groups, coverage will be available to a party to a civil union and dependents upon the BCBSIL member entering into a civil union on or after June 1, 2011, similar to a qualifying life event. If the member does not elect to change his or her coverage within 31 days of entering into a civil union, the next opportunity will be upon the employer group's open-enrollment period. For group coverage, it is the employer group's responsibility to determine eligibility, just as it is currently.
  • BCBSIL has the flexibility to offer ASO ERISA customers (that choose to provide coverage for civil unions) the option to offer coverage to a party to a civil union and dependents either as of June 1, 2011, or upon their renewal as of June 1, 2011, and thereafter
  • For plans/policies that are implementing civil union coverage, existing BCBSIL members who have previously entered into a civil union as legalized by another state are able to add their party to a civil union and dependents during a 30-day special enrollment period beginning June 1, 2011. Coverage effective date will be June 1, 2011.

BCBSIL Business Decisions
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) has made the following business decisions for its policies and employer plans that currently cover dependent spouses and dependent children:

  1. Generally, a civil union will be treated from an operational and claims processing perspective the same as a traditional marriage.
  2. For group coverage, it is the employer group's responsibility to determine eligibility, just as it is currently.
  3. Parties to civil unions will be eligible for coverage if the policy or employer plan covers spouses in marriage for:
    1. BCBSIL fully insured individual and group business, including HMOs, and
    2. self-funded state municipalities, school districts, counties, church plans and other non-ERISA plans (the "non-ERISA ASO groups"), just as most insurance laws would typically apply to these entities.
  4. Although the law provides religious organizations the freedom to choose not to officiate or solemnize a civil union based on their religious practices, as an employer, religious organizations are required to extend benefits as mandated by law.
  5. All other self-funded ASO business will have the option to choose to provide coverage to dependents who are parties to a civil union. If coverage is elected, it will automatically include coverage for dependent children of a civil union. The ASO Benefit Program Application (BPA) will be updated to define and accommodate the civil union coverage election and confirm the employer's responsibility for its decision. It is the employer's choice.
  6. The law will extend to BCBSIL contracts issued and delivered in Illinois, regardless of where the member resides.

For more information, please visit our Legislation section.

If you have additional questions or comments, please contact your BCBSIL representative.