Archive for Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Douglas County considers extending health benefits to domestic partners

April 26, 2011

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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.

Comments

Steve Jacob 4 years, 2 months ago

I do like that they waited until late in the evening to announce this.

DeMontfort 4 years, 2 months ago

I bet there is a majority on the county commission to approve this. Would be nice to see it be unanimous. And then the city should consider it. Who knew USD497 was so progressive?

kuhusker 4 years, 2 months ago

Wholeheartedly approve. Good idea and good business sense.

Kat Christian 4 years, 2 months ago

I have a problem with this...not that these couples may be gay, but that I cannot add my own grandchild, my blood onto my own health insurance policy. That I have a problem with. If they pass this law then they should also add grandchildren living with grandparents who provide 100% support to that child whether or not they have legal full custody. Afterall if domestic partners are not legally "civilally joined" why should they have more rights than a blood relative?

deec 4 years, 2 months ago

I agree, but have you gone to court to get custody? That might help you in terms of insurance, possible srs assistance, if the child needs medical care, receiving child support, etc.

grammaddy 4 years, 2 months ago

Find a new insurance company. Anyone with a vested interest in a child should be able to cover them. Mine are.

Katara 4 years, 2 months ago

With most insurance companies, they will cover anyone that you can legally claim as a dependent.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

"Domestic partnership" has been rather well defined for a number of years by now. I would expect that they'll use one of those standard definitions that are already out there.

sr80 4 years, 2 months ago

it must mean a cat or dog,i wonder what does it mean ???

Kirk Larson 4 years, 2 months ago

Most acknowledge same-sex or opposite-sex live-in partners. Some recognize elderly live-in relatives, say a parent. I bet most would recognize Sunshine_noise's grandchild.

Jeff Barclay 4 years, 2 months ago

Fred asks a sound, legal question. How is a domestic partner defined? I do not believe there is a legal definition. I see the abuse of tax payer dollars occuring all over the place. “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. This is a smokescreen. With unemployment what it is there are many unemployed quality people that would love to move to and work for Douglas County.

kuhusker 4 years, 2 months ago

There are standard legal definitions of domestic partners. This is not new nor is it rocket science. Companies (and various cities and counties around the US) have been doing this for almost two decades. It is well-trodden ground, albeit not in Kansas.

Brock Masters 4 years, 2 months ago

So, how is it defined? Is it pretty loose or is it very well-defined? Is it limited to gays or does it includes straights that are not married?

dragonwagon2 4 years, 2 months ago

A good progressive move. I hope this would also prompt more businesses in Lawrence to provide coverage for domestic partners. Lawrence Memorial Hospital is one that provides its own insurance but doesn't include domestic partners.

bd 4 years, 2 months ago

OK , so I do not need to get married, change girlfriends every year or so and sign them up??so why buy the cow??? If you can get the milk free???

more wasted tax $

whats_going_on 4 years, 2 months ago

you have to prove that you've been living together for a certain amount of time, have a bank account together ,etc etc.

Kat Christian 4 years, 2 months ago

Do like in that movie with Adam Sandler and & that fellow in that show The Qeen of Kings...whatever. Where they faked being a gay couple. Don't tell me that won't happen.

Katara 4 years, 2 months ago

You understand that is a movie, right?

kuhusker 4 years, 2 months ago

Most big companies provide these benefits. It used to be pretty rare but it fairly common now. Companies that don't provide the benefits are at a competitive disadvantage especially in the white collar world and specific industries like tech, media, advertising and legal. However for smaller companies, especially those that do not self-insure, it can be difficult to get underwritten for DP benefits.

kuhusker 4 years, 2 months ago

Can't comment on your math (it was never my subject :-) but as to your other question, there are standard legal definitions of domestic partners. It varies jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally the requirements are that you are unmarried, each other's sole domestic partner, and intend to remain as domestic partners indefinitely.

In the city of Lawrence, a domestic partner is defined by city code:

"Whenever used in this Article, “domestic partner” shall be construed to mean two individuals who are residents of the City of Lawrence, as defined in Section 10-202, who have reached 18 years of age, who have the mental capacity to contract, and who live together in a relationship of indefinite duration, with a mutual commitment in which the partners share the necessities of life and are financially interdependent. Domestic partners are not married to another person, do not have another domestic partner and are not related by blood more closely than would bar their marriage in this state. (Ord. 8120)"

(http://www.lawrenceks.org/city_code/system/files/chapter10.pdf)

Companies (and various cities and counties around the US) have been doing this for almost two decades. It is well-trodden ground, albeit not in Kansas.

square 4 years, 2 months ago

I know for a fact that it is alot to pay for some employees who have a wife and 1 kid but have to pay $253 a month for insurance. which is big chunk of their income.

square 4 years, 2 months ago

that domestic relationship wouldnt be paying just $29 a month either, it would go up to $150 or so.

Kat Christian 4 years, 2 months ago

Employers would have to raise salaries if they expect expect employees to fork out more for health insurance, epsecially in this town. If I had to pay $100 per pay check I would opt out of insurance.

Richard Payton 4 years, 2 months ago

Will domestic partners not be covered by the Federal health insurance plan that President Obama is trying to get approved?

kuhusker 4 years, 2 months ago

The new health care law doesn't address (or affect) domestic partners either positively or negatively. Companies are still free to offer their own insurance plans which may or may not cover DPs, same as today. I guess the law would make sort of a difference as if you are someone partner but can't get on his or her insurance, the law's supposed to make it easier for you to buy your own individual coverage...but we'll see how well that will end up working!

Richard Payton 4 years, 2 months ago

According to a search I did on Bing, Obama plans on extending benefits to domestic partners of federal workers with some exceptions in the military. This article was written by Scott Butterworth from the Washington Post.

betti81 4 years, 2 months ago

I hope this happens. And, in order to add a 'domestic partner' at the state level, I would have had to sign a legal document. That meant if we broke up, it was a legal proceeding. Didn't sign that document and it's a good thing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

Yea, but it gives you yet another chance to get irrelevantly hysterical.

kuhusker 4 years, 2 months ago

Don't forget cats and dogs living together!

lamb 4 years, 2 months ago

I am against spending my tax dollars on this.

kuhusker 4 years, 2 months ago

But I'm in favor of spending my tax dollars on it.

kueddie 4 years, 2 months ago

Totally agree with KSFBCOACH............Sad day in Lawrence. Lawrence should enact this to keep employees from leaving the area for companies that offer it? I DONT THINK SO! Just add more debt and lower our values........with Obama we all are heading down the road to total socializism.

Kat Christian 4 years, 2 months ago

No Lawrence companies need to pay a better salary to keep employees.

whtevr30 4 years, 2 months ago

Seriously people.... I don't understand what you are so afraid of. What's the big deal if gays and lesbians are insured. They want the right to take care of their family, their loved ones. You wont let them get married so, they have to deal with domestic partner benefits. If allowed to marry there would be no problem.They would be the same! On that note, they are the same as the rest of you. They live, love, breath, bleed, and die. We are all human. They don't want to marry animals or other family members and they certainly don't want 5 wives. They just want to live life with the same protection of civil rights. They want to be happy with no worries that one of them is going to die and that they are going to lose their house and or never get the death benefits married people are entitled to. They want to be able to take care of each other if they are ill in a hospital or need to go to the doctor. I am personally in a committed relationship for over 14 years, my partner & I have children that are very well adjusted, they have good grades and they are active in sports and music. In my opinion they are a lot better then some of their friends who have straight parents, or divorced parents or even parents that stay together but hate each other and spend no time with their kids. I was raised by straight people with wonderful values. I still have those values, they aren't erased by being gay, I raise my family with the same values that I was taught. With great moral values and the added family value of loving whoever you love. You don't know who your soul mate is until you meet them be it a man or a woman. As for all you who keep talking about your tax dollars. My tax dollars go to your heterosexual insurance coverage so why is it different. Let the county give benefits to those in committed relationship, it will save us tax dollars. At least we aren't paying for their insurance through welfare like so many others. Who are any of us to judge? If you don't like gay marriage or domestic benefits don't get one but don't judge people for trying to take responsibility for their loved ones.

Kat Christian 4 years, 2 months ago

I have no problem with domestic couples being added as a dependent as long as a blood related dependent minor who is supposed 100% by a grandparent, Aunt, sister, brother or Uncle is allowed the same privilege.

Katara 4 years, 2 months ago

They are allowed as long as that person meets the definition of a dependent. If you can claim the individual on your taxes as your dependent, most companies will insure them.

For example, if my parents get to the point where they cannot take care of themselves & I provide for them and meet the definition of a dependent to claim on my taxes, I can add them to my insurance and they would be covered just as if they were my own children.

Armored_One 4 years, 2 months ago

so if it was a man and a woman living together, as man and wife without the legal paperwork, you wouldn't be upset, even though it is the exact same costs that way as it is for same sex partners?

Why do gay people scare everyone so freaking bad?

NOTE: The following opinion isn't meant to be racist. It's simply a statement of fact.

Gay people are the new black people.

Do some research. The same fertilizer was spread about as thick back in the civil rights era. New nouns, same actions. If you can look back and call what was done then racist, then you should be able to say the exact same thing today.

Remember, people adamantly declared, nationwide, that black and white marriages were going to be the downfall of our society. Oh look, now they are saying the same exact things about gay people getting hitched.

Racist is racist, no matter what color you paint it. It's always sickening.

The decline of American morals isn't black people getting equal treatment under the law. It's not gay people getting equal treatment under the law. The decline is when we look at people that are born citizens and tell them that they are not equal to others that were born citizens. I don't care what spin you want to put on it. It's the exact same thing.

It's kind of sad when the Klan is more honest than the rest of us. At least the Klan admits it's racist.

Clark Coan 4 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence already has a Domestic Partnership Registry. A couple, whether same sex or opposite sex, can register online or in person:

Domestic Partnership Registry

Terms and Conditions Pursuant to Chapter 10, Article 2 of the Code of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, 2006 Edition, and amendments thereto, we declare the following to be true and correct:

We are both residents of the City of Lawrence, Kansas as defined in 10-202 of the Code of the City of Lawrence; We share a common permanent residence (we understand it is not necessary that the legal right to possess the common residence be in both our names); We have agreed to be in a relationship of mutual interdependence; We both contribute to the maintenance and support of the household (we understand we are not required to contribute equally to the household); Neither one of us is married to a third individual or a member of a domestic partnership with a third individual; Each of us is 18 years of age or older; Each of us has the mental capacity to contract; We are not related by blood in a way that would prevent us from being married to another in this State. We understand our registration creates no legal rights, other than the right to have our domestic partnership included in the City of Lawrence Domestic Partner Registry;

We understand no person shall register or attempt to register a domestic partnership without the consent of the persons to be registered and that any person who is convicted of violating this section of the City Code shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500 or a jail term of not less than 30 days, or both such fine and jail term;

We understand no individual who has previously filed a Declaration of Domestic Partnership in this City may file a new Declaration of Domestic Partnership until at least 90 days after the date that a Request for Removal from the Domestic Partnership was filed (we understand this prohibition does not apply if the previous domestic partnership ended because one of the partners died);

We understand the information provided on this Declaration of Domestic Partnership will become a part of a public record and may be viewed pursuant to the Kansas Open Records Act.

50YearResident 4 years, 2 months ago

The catch phrase, "We understand our registration creates no legal rights, other than the right to have our domestic partnership included in the City of Lawrence Domestic Partner Registry".

To get your domestic partner qualified to be on your health insurance there needs to be a binding contract which makes your partner liable for your and thier debts including unpaid medical bills and be able to take 1/2 of your estate upod the disolution of the domestic partner contract just like a marriage contract..

Scott Morgan 4 years, 2 months ago

We just read (LJW) about how low Lawrence salaries are and our county wishes to sugar the pot to keep employees who are among the well paid.

Once again the wool is being pulled over our eyes. Twenty nine bucks a month for health insurance is dirty dirt cheap. Which essentially is a benefit of a benefit. Plus is there a problem of high turnaround in the first place?

Who out there in the private sector has Excellent insurance benefits at 29 bucks a month??? Anybody have the guts to list all county employee benefits including retirement?

If nothing else good, I believe this down economy has shed light on how well paid (benefits added) public sector employees have it. The teaching profession is a different cat.

danmoore 4 years, 2 months ago

If married couples receive benefits then so should domestic partners.

Kat Christian 4 years, 2 months ago

and so should dependent children being raised by grandparents who receive 100% support whether legal custody or not.

Katara 4 years, 2 months ago

You keep adding the qualifier "whether legal custody or not" which makes me think that you have not bothered to get custody of the grandchild you support.

Your circumstance is not the same as the gay couples' circumstances. There is nothing legally preventing you from seeking and obtaining legal custody of your grandchild. Gay couples are legally prohibited in this state from getting married.

Your grandchild (as a minor) would most likely allow you to claim him/her as your dependent on your taxes which would allow you to add them as a dependent on your health insurance. A gay couple cannot do this. One would have to gain legal guardianship of the other in order to do what you are legally allowed to do with your grandchild.

Lawrence_Pilot 4 years, 2 months ago

Yawn. Many other governments did this years ago. They just weren't here in JesusLand.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 2 months ago

Have any of you super libs noticed our great nation is losing stature over the past few years?

Perhaps we did some things right from 1789 to 2008.

But, let's all jump on the Euro Socialist Bandwagon and down down down we go.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

All empires fall eventually.

We were founded as a small agricultural country, by a revolution against the British empire. It is extremely unfortunate, to me, that we then decided to become an empire ourselves.

ivalueamerica 4 years, 2 months ago

that seems to go more towards disempowering the people in favor of big business.

We are now learning that is not a sustainable method of generating growth.

akt2 4 years, 2 months ago

Okay.................read, Eunichs. Created to serve God, but deceived into beleiving they are different. If they do what they are created for, their rewards are 7-fold in Heaven.

If they don't, their punishment is 7-fold in Hell.

If you extend those benefits, your souls are in peril.

ivalueamerica 4 years, 2 months ago

if they show compassion and justice, I believe that is supposed to be rewarded in heaven, but now I have to worry for you about bearing false witness.

You just damned yourself to hell as I understand the Bible.

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