Domestic Partner Health Insurance Benefits
at Washburn University
by Bill Roach
Professor, School of Business
Professor, School of Law
And Justice for All
A Conference on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policies
at Colleges and Universities
November 7-8, 1998
University of Kansas
On October 30, 1997, Bill Roach and Charlene Smith met with the University personnel director to discuss the subject of broadening the definition of family so as to provide domestic partner health insurance benefits for same sex couples. We tried to focus the discussion on issues. Below we have summarized some of the points covered and perhaps some points we had intended to cover.
1. The Washburn University Board of Regents has very broad authority to adopt a plan of compensation for university employees. Logically, adopting a plan of providing health insurance for the same sex, domestic partner of a university employee would be permitted under that authority. The Bylaws of the University give the Regents broad discretion in the area of compensation. Further, this authority is delegated to the President, the Academic Provost (VPM), and the Vice President for Administration. The VPAA determines policy for academic staff, and the Vice President of Administration determines policy for the rest of the university work force. The relevant section of the University Bylaws is provided as Appendix A to this memo. 2. It is University policy not to discriminate against employees on account of their sexual orientation or marital status. The University Affirmative Action policy speaks specifically to this issue. The University Affirmative Action policy is provided as Appendix B to this memo. Washburn University has a strong commitment to affirmative action for three reasons:
As an urban university, affirmative action is central to the mission of the University.
Various accrediting agencies, including those for University at large, the law school, the social work program, psychology, business, nursing, education, etc. place significant emphasis on affirmative action and diversity.
Any university which receives more than $50,000 per year in Federal grants is subject to more strict affirmative action guidelines. Last year the University was the recipient of more than $2.0 million in federal grants.
3. Implementing domestic partner benefits for same sex couples would not discriminate against non traditional, opposite sex couples because the University is already providing benefits for opposite sex couples in long term relationships. In Kansas, an opposite
sex couple, living together for six months with significant sharing for financial resources, has fulfilled the legal requirements for a common law marriage. Couples in such relationships are eligible for inclusion in the Washburn group health insurance plan. Sample forms for attesting to a common law marriage or a same sex domestic partner relationship are provided as Appendix C to this memo.
4. Implementing domestic partner benefits for same sex couples will not result in the deterioration of the Washburn group health insurance rates. People in domestic partnerships are, on average, younger than married couples, and thus generally in better health. The biggest overall expense in most health care plans is attributable to pregnancy
related expenses, including neonatal care and the very high costs associated with premature child birth. Domestic partners, on average, have a lower rate of childbirth than married couples. Many times the concern is about AIDS. The cost of AIDS treatment is not the major cost problem that many assume it is. The lifetime cost of AIDS treatment is comparable to the lifetime costs of an individual with cancer or and individual with heart disease. The spread of HIV infection in the gay male population has been greatly reduced through education. Further, companies, municipalities, and universities that offer domestic partner benefits report that claims against health insurance for AIDS have been rare. Lesbians have a rate of HIV infection that is very low even in comparison to heterosexual couples.
5. Washburn will not be a pioneer in this area. The University of Kansas student group provides for coverage of same sex domestic partners. The graduate teaching assistant union at the Regents Institutions is currently bargaining for same sex domestic partner benefits. Northwestern University provides the coverage for faculty and staff, as do Michigan State and Ohio State. Nationwide, about nine percent of the health insurance groups currently offer the coverage. Sample forms from the Northwestern group are included as an appendix to this memo in Appendix C.
6. The demographics of the Washburn group would change minimally or not at all as a result of implementing the change now. Washburn has a two tier rate structure. Thus anyone wishing to extend health insurance coverage to his/her same sex partner would have to pay the full family rate. Many of the same sex couples are already covered by health insurance. Both partners work at jobs that provide health insurance coverage. Many of the couples do not have children so that the extension of coverage involves only the partner and not the partner's children. In this circumstance the Washburn group rate is not an attractive alternative. The subsidy for family health insurance could influence this decision for low income employees. Nationally, the number of same sex couples that take advantage of domestic partner benefits is small. The largest percentage participation in a domestic partnership benefits plan is the City of San Francisco, where 1.86% of its work force registered a domestic partner. At Apple Computer, only 45 people out of the Companies nationwide 9500 opted for the domestic partner insurance benefits when the benefits were first offered. Another reason for the extension of health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of Washburn employees is that there are many more non
traditional couples out there. If Washburn wants to compete for the best and the brightest, it should extend health insurance benefits to same sex domestic partners. Applicants typically visit the Personnel Office when they are on campus. Being able to talk about domestic partner benefits would be a significant plus for Washburn.
8. A potential delay in implementing domestic partner benefits for same sex couples is waiting for Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Kansas to get the appropriate rates and forms approved by the Kansas Insurance Department. However, a recent communication from BC/BS of KS indicated that they are looking at this issue right now. Charlene Smith and Bill Roach met with representatives of the Kansas Insurance Department who were receptive to the idea of same sex domestic partner benefits. The insurance department representatives offered to broker a meeting between the University and appropriate individuals at Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Kansas. Thus the absence of approved rates and forms is not likely to persist for very long. Blue Cross / Blue Shield organizations in other states already offer such plans.
9. The University should also extend its sick leave and bereavement leave policies to include the domestic partners of Washburn employees. This is probably de facto University policy now, but it should be implemented consistently.
10. University retirees could undoubtedly benefit from an extension of benefits to domestic partners. If the University expands the coverage to domestic partnerships, it will need to decide whether the expanded definition applies to both active and retired employees.
The bottom line is that Washburn should be considering broadening its health insurance coverage to include same sex domestic partners. Same sex couples can be included at little or no cost, and it is probably advantageous to do so.
BYLAWS of the BOARD OF REGENTS of
WASHBURN UNIVERSITY OF TOPEKA
As adopted June 4, 1941, and amended from time to time as reflected by page date.
Note: The Bylaws of Washburn University are authorized by K.S.A. 13-13a01 et seq. Municipal Universities. The bylaws appear to be consistent with the statute authorizing them.
ARTICLE IV. UNIVERSITY RULES AND REGULATIONS
SECTION 3. PERSONNEL POLICIES
Personnel Policies for the University are to be approved by the Board of Regents including fringe benefit policies, vacations, holidays, work week, and office hours. The administration of these approved policies is delegated to the President who may delegate the responsibility for implementation and control of these approved personnel policies to the Vice President for Administration and Treasurer for classified and classified exempt employees, and to the Provost for Faculty.
Washburn University Faculty Handbook 10th Edition
Section Two: Conditions of Employment
III. Affirmative Action Policy
It is the policy of Washburn University to assure equal educational and employment opportunity to qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, age, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex, marital or parental status, or sexual orientation.
Equal educational opportunity but is not limited to, admissions, recruitment, extracurricular programs and activities, housing, facilities use, access to course offerings, counseling and testing, financial aid, health services, and employment. Equal employment opportunity includes, but is not limited to, recruitment, hiring, assignment of duties, tenure and promotion determinations, compensation, benefits, training, and termination.
The University's Affirmative Action Plan affirms the University's commitment to the implementation of this policy and applies to all University practices and policies, with respect to academic programs and employment.
It is University policy to have positive action taken to assure the full realization of equal opportunity for all who work for the University. Special efforts will be made to identify promising minority persons and women for positions in all areas and at all levels in which these groups are underutilized relative to their availability. All selections will be based solely on the candidates' qualifications to carry out the duties that the positions require, knowing that such actions can only result in raising the quality and competence of faculty and staff.
The administration of Washburn University is committed to its support of the principles of equal opportunity for students, faculty and staff. Each unit within the University is charged with conducting its practices in conformity with these principles and in accordance with the Affirmative Action Plan. Responsibility for monitoring and implementation of this policy is delegated to the Affirmative Action Director; however, all personnel will share in the specific activities necessary to achieve these goals.
Insurance Forms Related to Common Law Marriage
Same Sex Domestic Partner Relationship
AFFIDAVIT OF COMMON LAW SPOUSE
The Insured/Applicant ______________________________________________
has requested that you be included as his/her lawful spouse under one or more benefit plans maintained by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc. ("BCBSK"). The Insured has stated that you are his/her lawful spouse, having contracted a marriage at common law. In order for BCBSK to determine your eligibility, you will need to provide the following information:
1. If the Insured/Applicant is designated as your lawful spouse on any benefit forms (such as life insurance beneficiary) you have completed with your employer, please attach copies of those forms.
2. Do you receive Social Security benefits or public assistance benefits such as Aid to Dependent Children or Food Stamps? __ Yes __ No
If yes, have you designated the Insured/Applicant as your spouse on the application?
__ Yes __ No
3. Are you and the Insured/Applicant presented and known to friends,
family and throughout the community as husband and wife?
__ Yes __ No
4. Are there any factors which would prevent you or the Insured/Applicant from marrying, including but not limited to a prior marriage that has not been legally terminated by death or divorce?
__ Yes __ No
If you become included in BCBSK benefit plans and later facts contradict the existence of a common law marriage, BCBSK may look to you for a refund of all claims paid on your behalf, or on behalf of any children who might claim benefits through you and may pursue other
Sworn to me this __________________ day of ________ ,19
My Commission Expires: ___________________ 29
REQUEST FOR ENROLLMENT OF COMMON LAW SPOUSE
IDENTIFICATION NUMBER: __________________________
(The following must be completed and returned to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas before this enrollment may be considered.)
AFFIDAVIT OF COMMON LAW MARRIAGE
You have requested that we consider as a dependent "lawful spouse" for insurance and other benefit purposes under a common
law marriage relationship
In order for us to determine if eligibility for insurance and other benefits exists, please answer the following questions and return it to us in the enclosed envelope. NOTE: If enrollment is accepted, and subsequent facts contradict the existence of a common law marriage, Blue Cross and Blue Shield may look to you for a refund of all claims paid on behalf of the alleged common law spouse and his/her children and may pursue other legal remedies. Examples of contradictory facts would include later obtaining and filing a marriage license or claiming a new spouse without an intervening divorce.
1. Are you presented and known to friends, family and throughout the community as husband end wife? __ Yes __ No
2. Are you living in a husband and wife relationship? __ Yes __ No
a. Indicate the date you entered into this marriage. MO/DAY/YR
b.. In what State did you reside?
Do you have real property or titled personal property as husband and wife?
__ Yes __ No
If the answer is yes, please provide a copy of auto registration or title, deed or property tax statement.
Did you file your last income tax return indicating that you were married?
__ Yes __ No
If the answer is yes, please provide a copy of your last income tax return.
Do you have a written agreement of marriage? __ Yes __ No
If yes, please attach a copy to this Affidavit.
6. If you answered "No" to No.'s 3, 4 or 5 on this Affidavit, attach at least two documents in addition to others required in this Affidavit, that you consider to be evidence of your common law marriage
7. Are there any factors which would prevent the two of you from marrying, including but not limited to, a prior marriage of either party that has not been legally terminated by death or divorce?
8. Attach the notarized form "AFFIDAVIT OF COMMON LAW SPOUSE" that has been completed and signed by the person you have named as your common law spouse.
9. The following children have been born to me and my lawful spouse and we hereby acknowledge such children to be our lawful issue.
10. The following children have been born to me or my lawful spouse.
And coverage is desired for these children as eligible dependents pursuant to the rules and regulations of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.
Any person who knowingly and with intent to defraud or deceive Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc. gives false, incomplete or misleading information on this affidavit may be subject to any remedies available under law.
Name of Insured Signature of Insured Date
Sworn to before me this _____ day of , __ 19 __ .
_____________________ My Commission expires ,19 _.
Declaration Of Same
Sex Domestic Partner Relationship
Please type or print
NAME: ____________________ STATUS:
__ Student __ Employee
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER: ____________________________
CAMPUS TELEPHONE NUMBER: _________________________
DEPARTMENT OR SCHOOL: _____________________________
SCHOOL OR HOME ADDRESS:
DATE OF BIRTH:
DOMESTIC PARTNER INFORMATION
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER: ______________
DATE OF BIRTH: _________________
I ___________________and ______________ certify that we live in a committed
relationship and are each other's Domestic Partner in accordance with the following criteria and are eligible for University benefits as Domestic Partners. We
are each other's sole Domestic Partner and intend to remain so indefinitely
are of the same sex
are not legally married to anyone
are both age 18 or older and mentally competent to consent
are not related by blood to a degree of closeness which would prohibit legal marriage in the state in which we legally reside
would marry or establish a legally recognized Domestic Partnership if it were available to us under the laws of the state in which we live
are jointly responsible for each other's common welfare and share financial obligations which could be demonstrated upon request by providing proof of the existence of at least three of the following (please check):
joint mortgage or lease or other appropriate written evidence of common residence such as joint utility bills
designation of Domestic Partner as primary beneficiary in either:
- my or my Domestic Partner's will, or
- Life Insurance. or
- Retirement Plan
durable property or health care power of attorney
joint ownership of motor vehicle
joint checking account or joint credit account
DATE: _______________________ SIGNATURE OF DOMESTIC PARTNER
DATE: ________________________ SIGNATURE OF STUDENT OR EMPLOYEE
CHANGE IN DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP
I agree to notify the University within 131 days of any eligibility requirement listed above and certified in this Declaration are no longer satisfied which would make the Domestic Partner no longer eligible for University sponsored benefits.
I understand it I elect to cover my Domestic Partner under any of the University's Health or Dental Plans and it the relationship ceases that I may elect to continue the coverage for my Domestic Partner and other covered dependent children for up to 36 months by paying the premium directly to the University. This provision does not apply to the Student Hospitalization or Visiting Scholar Plans.
I understand it the Domestic Partner relationship terminates that a subsequent Declaration of Same Sex Domestic Partnership can be filed after twelve months after a Statement of Termination of the previous partnership has been submitted to the University.
I understand that I have the opportunity to cover my Domestic Partner under University benefits plans under the same terms and with the same privileges and restrictions that apply to spouses and eligible dependent children.
I understand that benefits I elect for my Domestic Partner using this Declaration will remain in effect as long as I meet the eligibility requirements.
I understand that Northwestern University is required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to report as taxable income the premium value refuted to covering my Domestic Partner under the employee health or dental benefit plans. This provision does not apply to the Student Hospitalization or Visiting Scholar programs.
SIGNATURE OF STUDENT OR EMPLOYEE
_________________________________ ____________ DATE
Declaration of the Termination of Same
Sex Domestic Partner
Please type or print
STUDENT or EMPLOYEE INFORMATION
STUDENT OR EMPLOYEE NAME: _______________________________
__ Student __ Employee
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER: ____________________
CAMPUS TELEPHONE NUMBER: ___________________
SCHOOL OR DEPARTMENT: _______________________
SCHOOL OR HOME ADDRESS: _____________________________
DATE OF BIRTH: ___________________
I __________________________ certify that I previously filed a Declaration of Same
Sex Domestic Partnership Relationship. I now inform the University that
____________________________ is no longer my Domestic Partner as of
I further certify that a copy of this Declaration of Termination has been mailed to the partner identified above.
I understand that a new Declaration of Same
Sex Domestic Partnership can be submitted only after twelve months after this Declaration of Termination has been received by the University.
STUDENT OR EMPLOYEE SIGNATURE: ____________________________