Joseph Jarvis decided what job he would accept after he graduated from Kansas University’s School of Law largely based on the company’s health care and anti-discrimination policies.
Despite being a sixth-generation Kansan, Jarvis decided he will head to a Missouri-based firm for its inclusion of domestic partners in its insurance policy and anti-discrimination policy. Jarvis will be able to put his same-sex partner on his health insurance.
A majority of Douglas County commissioners Wednesday expressed support for a similar plan in this county, which would extend coverage to domestic partners under the county’s plan. Partners will have to provide documentation to show they are in a committed relationship, though the county has not determined what it will require.
The plan would benefit both same-sex and heterosexual partners who aren’t married.
Commissioner Mike Gaughan, who originally brought up the issue, and Commissioner Nancy Thellman both supported the idea after hearing public comment for and against.
“This issue is a priority for some, and for some it’s a core value,” Thellman said. “The core value is about fundamental fairness to all people, whether they’re in the private sector or the public sector. I’ve never been prouder of any place I’ve worked for than this county.”
Commissioner Jim Flory was not in favor of the plan, largely for budgetary reasons. He argued that the commission was forced to cut the county’s 2011 budget, but adding people to the county’s insurance coverage would only increase costs.
The county’s stop-loss coverage pays up to $175,000 of medical expenses per person, and Flory argued that adding even six people to the plan could conceivably put the county responsible for $1 million of expenses. However, in the past few years, few employees have hit that limit.
“A private company is using their own money. We in government, when we make decisions, are using other people’s money,” Flory said.
John McFarland, Lawrence resident, also spoke against adding additional people onto the plan, saying people could exploit the system to become domestic partners if they were roommates or friends. He said the change was against the institution of marriage and also used tax money inappropriately.
“Do you have $60,000 to give away?” he asked the commission.
While no decision was officially made Wednesday, county employees hope to get the health care plan together for presentation at next week’s meeting. The county commissioners will vote to approve or deny that plan.