03/14/2014 01:11 EDT | Updated 05/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Obama admin. says health plans that offer spousal benefit can exclude married same-sex couples

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is spelling out new health insurance rights for same-sex couples.

Starting next year, health plans that offer spousal coverage to heterosexual couples cannot deny it to legally married same-sex couples.

The Health and Human Services Department announced the policy Friday in a blog post.

The department says insurance companies will not be allowed to discriminate against married same-sex couples.

The rule applies to plans offered in the new health insurance exchanges, as well as to many employer and individual plans offered outside that marketplace.