Saturday, May 29, 2004

Interesting intersection of universal health care coverage, same-sex marriage, and domestic-partners' benefits

There is an Associated Press story out (published in today's Portsomouth (N.H.) Herald) about my hometown, Springfield, Mass. The article reports that Springfield is dropping health benefits for same-sex unmarried domestic partners of city employees. Cost is an obvious culprit, but there is also the issue of Massachusetts' decision to allow same-sex marriages. Now that this option is legally available, the city seems to be saying, what's the justification for domestic-partner benefits?

As pointed out in the article, however, same-sex couples may decide to remain unmarried in order to adopt children in countries than ban adoptions by married same-sex couples. And Springfield's three-month phase-out may leave out in the cold those couples that cannot (or choose not to) get their marital act together that quickly. Mayor Charlie Ryan (who was also mayor during my high school days, 37 years ago, and whom I always regarded as an exceptionally straight shooter) says his new order will bring the city into compliance with state insurance laws, though that didn't seem to be a high priority until now.

As for cost: Cambridge Vice-mayor Marjorie Decker is quoted as saying, "It’s an interesting debate for any city or town," she said. "We’re at the crossroads of what happens when you don’t have some universal form of health care." Cambridge, as well as other employers, is confronting the same choices:
Decker expects the city will eventually debate the issue. She predicts that some will argue that domestic-partnership benefits should be extended to all couples who are in long-term committed relationships, rather than forcing them to marry in order to access health benefits. . . .

Among Boston-area employers, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Babson College will discontinue domestic-partner benefits at the end of the year.

Employers including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Fidelity Investments, Gillette Co. and EMC Corp. will maintain the benefits. Harvard University plans to maintain them for the immediate future, but will revisit the issue in the next two years.
Stay tuned . . . .
posted by tommayo, 10:55 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter