Same-sex partners of Montana university system employees to get insurance coverage
The Montana Supreme Court ruled in December that the university system’s current health insurance policy, which allows unmarried heterosexual couples to receive benefits, violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution since it doesn’t afford gays and lesbians the same benefits.
Cathy Swift, attorney for the office of the commissioner of higher education, will develop health insurance policy options for the regents to consider at their March meeting.
Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns said it’s more likely that the university system will open its policy to include gays and lesbians, rather than restrict it to heterosexuals who are legally married. A constitutional ban on gay marriage in Montana, as well as a state “Defense of Marriage Act,” prevent gays and lesbians from marrying here.
The current university policy, which allows people to sign an affidavit of common-law marriage for the purpose of attaining health insurance benefits, has been suspended until the problem is solved.
…The university system has not removed anyone from the health plan since the Supreme Court ruled, and officials said they hope to have the issue resolved by April 1, when open enrollment in the health plan begins. Swift said she is still gathering data from the campuses as she prepares her list of options.
Regent Lynn Hamilton of Havre said expanding the policy to include gays and lesbians could boost the university system’s ability to recruit and retain employees. She said she’s been surprised to discover that many large corporations do offer partner benefits to their employees. Mercer, however, is calling the debate an “insurance question.” He said it could make sense to allow more people into the self-funded health insurance pool, since a larger pool tends to be more stable.
Oooh. I love the slam dunk of that last line. How about that Mr. Tabor?