One Massachusetts agency still has a bit of trouble with the concept of same-sex spouses

Our own eeka reports that while the state health-insurance system properly accounts for her spouse as her spouse, it's decided said spouse is the "stepmother" of their kid:

They also have me listed as our child's "mother" and spousal unit as child's "stepmother." "Stepparent," while often someone who provides amazing parenting to a child, is not someone who is fully a legal parent to said child.

We jointly adopted said child in Massachusetts, as a married couple. On our health insurance application, we listed ourselves as spouses and our child as our child.

Apparently the people who manage the healthcare benefits decided that the family relationships we have that are backed up by a bunch of legal paperwork aren't actually real.



Bad Database/Coding?

I wonder if the real problem is that whoever wrote their database/software designed it so that it wouldn't allow there to be two mothers/fathers listed for the same dependent. The person who was punching in the data tried to pick the next choice the system would allow to stick. The software vender was likely trying to prevent legitimate typos or was following specs which failed to list this as a required function.

This isn't to forgive the agency at question and the software should be revised (if that is the problem) but this problem might not be as malicious or political as it sounds.

Or maybe whatever software

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Or maybe whatever software they're using hasn't been updated since '04. Given the state of healthcare funding, I wouldn't be surprised.

Well, right

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If it is a database error, I'm sure we aren't the first same-sex couple to have health insurance. So why have the staff not been trained well enough on diversity issues (and the importance of state agencies entering exactly what is legally correct) that no staffer in several years has gone and told the bosses that they weren't able to correctly input a family?

Especially when this is something that is income-based and costs tax dollars. Isn't it really important that they correctly enter the legal relationships of people in our household? And if people are fine listing a parent with full legal rights and responsibilities (i.e. able to change the kid's health insurance) as a "stepparent," then it sounds like someone really doesn't understand that the laws make same-sex families exactly legally the same as different-sex families.

You overestimate the ability for change

I speak with some experience on this: Bugs in large, custom written software designed for a one agency/corporation are pretty common and hard to fix. Often there isn't a contact in place which allows for revising the software, only ensuring what was delivered stays running. Worse, sometimes the company which wrote the code isn't around and prospective new programmers would prefer to rewrite the while application from scratch rather then make changes to dated code. I've deal with problems often where what seems to be a simple fix takes years and $$$$ to get implemented.

It sucks, it's stupid, but it's government.

Have you called them to ask what's up?

Have you brought this to their attention?

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Please, please contact the agency in question and let them know this is important to you. You use the words "refused" and "decided" which implies you are certain that someone was actively trying to screw you over, but you don't mention any actual interaction. It is not unusual in my experience to find out that something has been broken for months and no one realizes. Everyone assumes everyone else has reported the issue, and it never gets fixed.

Having worked in IT for a Commonwealth agency for a decade now, I always assume (and hope) incompetence before malice in cases like this. And not just personal incompetence, but organizational - we often know something is wrong, but can't fix it because of a law or regulation that says we need to do steps X, Y and Z first, except the Legislature cut our funding for doing step Y. Or, the vendor responsible for that function hasn't been paid for 3 months and has stopped doing work until we can pay them. Or, the staff wants to fix something but because no users have complained about it, the fix gets a low priority.


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I've left a few messages and I stayed on hold for 30 minutes with the virtual gateway help people before I had to go do something else. No responses to messages.

Not in MA you don't

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I'm guessing the original post is talking about second-parent adoption when she refers to joint adoption. If that's the case, then no, you don't need to be married.

While a child born to a married couple--whether same-sex or opposite-sex--is legally presumed to be the child of both members of the couple, many same-sex couples will have the non-biological parent adopt. This is done as a precaution so they don't run into any questions of parenthood if they travel to another state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage. Because while about 30 states still don't recognize same-sex relationships, all will recognize the adoption decree of another state.


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We adopted our child jointly. Not a second-parent adoption.