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Intermountain Healthcare extends benefits to employee's same-sex spouses


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SALT LAKE CITY — Starting in 2014, Intermountain Healthcare will offer insurance coverage to its employees same-sex spouses.

Intermountain Healthcare announced Tuesday that it would begin extending coverage through SelectHealth to same-sex spouses of its employees starting Jan. 1, 2014. The change will allow same-sex spouses to be covered under the spouse and family benefit tier, rather than the domestic partner or domestic family tier for which they previously qualified.

Brandie Balken was married to her partner in 2008, and she said having her employer's health benefits extend to her spouse is two-fold.

"It signifies for me the ability to protect my family and the people that I care for in a way that doesn't have an extra obstacle or burden," Balken said.

Intermountain Healthcare wrote it was making the change based on recent federal law and ruling by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Treasury. Same-sex couples who have been legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage can enroll in the benefit.

"For the purposes of the federal government, regardless of what state you were married in, if it's legal, they're going to recognize that marriage," Balken said.

Intermountain Healthcare said the benefits department will help interested employees starting this month and into the new year, as needed.

The change will affect 29 employees in Utah and Southern Idaho, according to the healthcare company’s spokesman Jason Burgess. Intermountain Healthcare employees 34,000 employees.

“This is a trend that we’re seeing locally and nationally and we wanted to be competitive, and offer it to our employees,” Burgess said.

Since 2004, the Utah Constitution has defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and the state does not recognize other domestic unions as legal marriages.

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