US: Obama opens Medicare to same-sex married couples

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Married same-sex couples are now able to apply for Medicare benefits regardless of in which state they live, it was announced today.

The announcement from the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) comes after the supreme court struck down the Defence of Marriage Act last year, clearing the path for all federal benefits to recognise same-sex marriages.

Same-sex spouses were previously denied access to some parts of Medicare, a federal insurance programme that primarily guarantees insurance coverage for over-65s and people with disabilities, as they were unable to be recognised as married.

CMS told Reuters: “If you’re in, or are a surviving spouse of, a same-sex marriage, we encourage you to apply for Medicare if you think you might be eligible.”

Kathleen Sebelius, US Health and Human Services Secretary said: “We are working together with [the administration] to process these requests in a timely manner to ensure all beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated fairly under the law.”

In December, the Pentagon announced that military benefits had been opened to same-sex couples in all states, to comply with the DOMA ruling.