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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Massachusetts lawmakers OK Medicaid for gay couples

The Massachusetts state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill granting married same-sex couples equal Medicaid benefits, gay rights group MassEquality reported.

Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to sign the bill, which was passed by the state House on July 15.
The lawmakers' actions defy the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bans legally wed same-sex couples from receiving federally provided benefits such as Medicaid, the "safety-net" health care program administered by the states.

Supporters say Massachusetts can circumvent federal law by using only state dollars to pay for gay couples' benefits.

Under current law, if a same-sex couple owns a house together and one partner has to go into a nursing home, the other could lose the home once all the medical bills are paid, MassEquality said.

Changing the law offers significant progress in helping LGBT seniors in crisis, said Lisa Krinksy, director of the LGBT Aging Project, which worked with MassEquality, in a written statement.
"By passing this bill, the Massachusetts Legislature is not only codifying the 2003 Goodridge decision extending legal marriage and its 'protections, benefits and obligations' to same-sex married couples in our state," Krinksy said. "It's also helping protect LGBT seniors from the potential impoverishment and homelessness they faced under current Medicaid laws."

-The Advocate

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