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Palm Beach Community College: insurance for pets, but not partners

Talk about skewed and bigoted priorities. This just landed in my inbox from Florida’s Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

Last August, two members of the Board of Trustees of Palm Beach Community College killed a proposal which would have granted the college’s full-time employees the ability to purchase health insurance for their domestic partners.

But soon, the college’s employees will be able to purchase health insurance for their pets.

On November 16, Dr. Ellen Grace, PBCC’s Director of Human Relations notified the college’s full-time employees that “the college has added pet insurance as an available option to employees through payroll deduction.” [A copy of Dr. Grace’s e-mail is below the fold.]

“When it comes to providing health PBCHRC Logoinsurance, Palm Beach Community College prefers puppies to partners,” said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The Council, a local nonprofit civil rights organization, has been encouraging the college to provide domestic partnership benefits since 2005.

While many pet owners consider their dogs and cats part of their families, there is a basic disconnect when an employer will insure an employee’s pet but not an employee’s partner, said Deidre Newton, a PBCC graduate who serves as Vice President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

“The college’s offer to insure pets within months of  denying  insurance for domestic  partners  is  unbelievably  insensitive,” said Hoch.

“Last summer’s decision not to offer domestic partner health insurance is irrational, since the college does not have to pay any portion of health insurance premium to insure an employee’s partner,” said Newton.

The cost to PBCC of covering a domestic partner is the same as covering a pet,” Newton added. “Neither costs the college a single dollar since the employee is responsible for the cost to add their partner or pet.”

In response to the college’s pet insurance announcement, Hoch sent a letter to PBCC President Dennis P. Gallon.

More after the jump. 

“While the Council understands that both you and Dr. Grace have been – and remain – strong advocates for domestic partner benefits, the fact remains that the reluctance of two trustees, Kenneth Kirby and Carolyn Williams, prevented PBCC employees from purchasing health insurance for their partners for the current school year.” Hoch wrote.

Hoch requested that “the issue of domestic partner benefits, including, but not limited to health insurance, continuation of health insurance coverage and family medical leave, be brought before the Trustees at the January 15, 2008 meeting.”

PBCC’s pet insurance is provided through one of the nation’s largest pet insurers, VPI Veterinary Pet Insurance. Coverage  includes everything from office visits and prescriptions to surgeries and hospitalization.

VPI is no stranger to controversy involving companies who insure pets, but not domestic partners.

Several years ago, two Fortune 500 companies — Home Depot and Sprint — were outed by a national gay rights organization for offering pet insurance, but not domestic partner insurance.

It did not take much time for the companies to admit their mistakes and extend health insurance to the domestic partners of their employees.

Stephen Gray, a records specialist at Palm Beach Community College, told Hoch that he was hopeful that health insurance benefits would eventually be extended to include availability for domestic partners.

“Hopefully, the college’s trustee’s will act promptly to address this absurd inequity,” said Hoch.

The email offering the pet insurance…

From: Grace, Ellen

Sent: Friday, November 16, 2007 8:34 AM

To: all Full Time Staff

Subject: New Voluntary Benefit - Pet Insurance

This voluntary benefit is available to all full time employees.


The College has added pet insurance as an available option to employees through payroll deduction.  Please review the different levels of coverage available on the VPI Pet Insurance web site.

· The coverage will begin on January 1, 2008, if you enroll and are approved by December 15, 2007.

· Please be aware that there are pre-existing condition clauses to the plans.

· The pet insurance plans are portable, so you may continue them if you leave the College but not at the group rate.

·  The plan allows for continuous enrollment so you may enroll on the first of any month if VPI accepts and approves your application by the 15th of the preceding month.  (Example, if you are approved on February 8th, the effective date will be March 1st, if you are approved on February 16th; the effective date is April 1st)

How to Enroll . . . There are two ways to sign up for a VPI Pet Insurance policy.

1.     Call 1-877-PETS-VPI. Tell the sales agent that you are an employee of Palm Beach Community College and you will receive a group discount on your base policy.   OR

2.     Visit their website at or go to, click on Employees and click on Palm Beach Community College from the list.  You will be directed to a web page set up just for our employees.  The rates given will include the group discount.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding