Douglas County could become one of the first Kansas counties to extend health care coverage to domestic partners.
County Commissioner Mike Gaughan requested the county investigate extending benefits to domestic partners, a move he said would help the county retain employees and remain competitive.
“A lot of private companies are doing this, so on one level we need to do this to retain quality employees to work for the county and for the public,” he said.
Adding domestic partners to coverage would put the county on par with the Lawrence school district, which already extends coverage, and ahead of most, if not all, Kansas counties. The City Commission has not discussed the matter for its employees.
“This also demonstrates that the county and this community accept families of all kinds,” Gaughan said.
County commissioners will discuss extending coverage to domestic partners at Wednesday’s meeting. If commissioners decide coverage should be extended, the addition will be included in the county’s health care plan, which commissioners will vote on in the coming weeks.
Sarah Plinsky, assistant county administrator, said each employee covered under the county’s insurance costs $4,380 annually. Under this year’s plan, a single employee pays $29 per month while the county has a cost of $543 per month. When adding another person to a plan, costs jump to $183 for the employee and $1,062 for the county.
The county provides its own insurance.
The county has 618 employees using its health insurance, with about 700 eligible for the service. The county extends coverage to various agencies, including Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, Extension Council and townships.
County Administrator Craig Weinaug guessed that extending coverage would add seven to 10 people to the plan.
“It’s no different than if we add employees and if we add their dependents,” Plinsky said.
Weinaug said the county’s insurance is reviewed every year around this time, and that he’d spoken with employees over the years who were interested in coverage for domestic partners.