DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS: UC Saw Lower-Than-Expected Costs After Extending Coverage
The University of California's extension of health benefits to its employees' gay and lesbian partners has produced neither crippling health insurance bills nor a barrage of lawsuits. The Los Angeles Times reports that the new policy, which passed the UC Board of Regents by a one-vote margin last year, has resulted in the coverage of 701 domestic partners, adding approximately $1 million to UC's $442 million annual insurance outlay. The UC system covers 130,000 current and former employees. Lubbe Levin, UC assistant director for human resources, said, "Frankly, we have not seen any downside. It seems to have made a big difference in overall morale. And it's helped us with our recruitment and retention of the most talented faculty and staff, since most of our competitors offer this." Along with a separate provision that granted benefits to financially dependent adult relatives that live with employees, the expanded health care coverage has "added $1.8 million to the university's health care budget -- less than the $1.9 million to $5.6 million increase that university officials had expected." In addition, UC officials said the domestic partner policy "has not spawned any costly lawsuits, as was suggested last November by Gov. Pete Wilson during his attempt to scuttle the benefits."
On The Cheap
Sarah Archibald, head of a UC association of gays and lesbians, said that "[o]ne reason the numbers were light is that employees have to pay taxes on such benefits extended to their unmarried partners. The tax burden limited the benefits to only those who have no other options." The Times reports that unions have tried to bring domestic partner benefits to the California State University system, but because the Cal State system does not have the UC system's right to its own health benefits system, Cal State administrators' "hands are tied until the Legislature changes state law to permit such benefits." The Times reports that no other state agencies offer the benefits. While UC is a state institution, it is "autonomous under the state Constitution and operates its own health and retirement benefits system" (Weiss, 11/6). Click here for previous coverage of domestic partner benefits.