- CRITTER TALK
Last month I posted a column which stated that the the Alabama Public Educators Employees Health Insurance Program was, as of October 1, 2011 going to deny health benefits to spouses of employees involved in a common law marriages in direct conflict with Alabama Law. In part, I stated,
Alabama is one of a number of states which, by law, recognizes common law marriages. This has been the law for well over a century and a half and as of 1991 need no formal filing of paper work with the State of Alabama by virtue of an opinion by then State Attorney General Jimmy Evans. Despite this standing the health insurance providers for the Alabama Retirement Fund and the Teachers Retirement Trust Fund have decided that they no longer wanted to follow state law. (Musings, Sept.16)
Their position, as posted in they rules stated:
An eligible dependent is defined as:
1. The employee’s spouse as defined by
Alabama law to whom you are currently
and legally married. (Excludes a divorced
and common law spouse.) Emphasis Added
Additionally, as I indicated then, this state agency was doing all of this in the face of current case law that clearly stated that their actions were in clearly violation of state law.
Well, it may come down to another court decision. Yes, another decision because the Alabama Supreme Court, at the request of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has already ruled on this issue once. In another case where Aetna Insurance company tried to deny a Mobile, Alabama longshoreman’s wife insurance coverage because of their common law marriage status the court stated:
“We conclude that contractual provisions denying common-law marriages the same status as ceremonially solemnized marriages are void as violative of the public policy of this State.”
Scott v. Board of Trustees, 859 F.2d 872, 873 (11th Cir. Ala. 1988) In other words, while an insurance company might be able to alter some contractual provisions of an insurance policy but it cannot alter public policy. To answer the question of what is public policy the court further stated:
Well, I can now report that due to the diligence of a few memmbers, and Legal staff PEEHIP, Deputy Director Mr Mark Reynolds made an executive decision and, in effect said, oops. Well, without actually acknowledging they were wrong to begin with, they have said they we wrong by now agreeing to cover all dependent spouses who were covered as of September 30, 2011 upon written request from the employee. So that is sort of saying they were wrong, and actually, they are still wrong since they are not requiring the same of ceremoniously married couples it is still a violation of equal protection rights, and, if they do not go back and notify all person previously disqualified under their prior published policies they are still in violation of Alabama Law. Some people just don’t understand that it is far easier to do things the write way the first time.