Council requests report on costs to insure non-married city employees

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Eight of the nine Cincinnati City Council members joined together Wednesday to request a report from the city administration on the costs to insure non-married employees and their cohabitating adult partners.

Only Councilman Charlie Winburn was not included on the motion.

Councilman Chris Seelbach is leading the effort.

"There are some issues that it would never be the right time," Seelbach said. "There would never be enough money and you just have to do them because they're the right thing. But you do them in a financially responsible way.

He argues equal benefits for cohabitating employees, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual, would help make the city more competitive with other cities and businesses who are already offering such benefits.

"We have to be in a position where we can compete with other urban cities, with other corporations and this is one of those elements that allows us to compete," Seelbach said.

In the motion council members requested the following:

"… costs of various potential eligibility and benefit structures necessary to implement equal health benefits for all city employees. Council requests that the Administration consider the potential cost of allowing non-married employees to include a cohabitating adult on the City Health Plan. Council also requests that it be presented an analysis of the actual cost of health benefits by eligibility classification that it understands to be: 1) Single with no children; 2) Single with children; 3) Married with no children; and 4) Married with children."

A number of cities in the region have already expanded or are in the process of expanding their health care plans to include domestic partners.

Columbus' domestic partner benefits program began at the start of 2011. Currently 57 employees of the nearly 10,000 workers employed by the city are enrolled according to city spokesperson Dan Williamson.

Since Columbus had budgeted for 90 employees, they say the city only paid out two-thirds of estimated cost in 2011. Chet Christie, Columbus' human resources director, says they spent roughly 400,000 dollars in 2011 on the extended benefits program.

Like other cities, Columbus requires eligible employees to prove financial interdependence through documentation that can include proof of joint ownership of real estate and shared bank accounts among other options.

Cleveland's extended benefits to domestic partners will go into effect in April.

In Cleveland, a "domestic partner" is defined as a same sex or opposite sex partner.  Domestic partners are eligible for inclusion in hospitalization/health insurance, prescription drug program, dental care insurance, and vision care insurance, sick leave and funeral leave.

Cleveland's domestic partner benefits program has the following requirements for eligible employees:

  • Are at least eighteen years of age;
  • Employees must be registered with the City's Domestic Partner Registry to receive benefits
  • Employees who were registered with the City's Domestic Partner Registry prior to May 1, 2011 shall be treated in the same manner as city employees and their spouses (employee will be charged the family rate); and
  • Employees who register(ed) with the City's Domestic Partner Registry after May 1, 2011 shall contribute the difference between the full premium cost of the plan that the employee was eligible to choose without inclusion of the domestic partner and the cost of the plan that the employee chooses after inclusion of the domestic partner.
  • Employee must provide proof of joint ownership of a residence
  • Employee must provide at least two of the following documents:
    • Joint ownership of a motor vehicle
    • Joint checking, bank or investment account
    • Joint credit account
      • Lease for a residence identifying both partners as tenants; and/or a will and/or life insurance policies which designate the other as Primary beneficiary

In Louisville, domestic partners of the city's roughly 5,500 employees are eligible for city health insurance starting in July. Mayor Greg Fischer signed an order in July 2011 extending those domestic partner benefits. He referenced Fortune 500 companies in the area that offer similar benefits.

"If Metro Government is to attract the best and brightest talent, it must offer benefits that are competitive with the private sector," Fischer said in a prepared statement.

The city's domestic partner benefits apply to medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage for qualified adults, defined as: "someone over 18 years of age and not eligible for Medicare"

Domestic partners must be residing in the employee's household for at least nine months. Couples also must be financially interdependent for nine months or longer and must provide evidence, such as joint checking accounts, joint mortgage, joint utility billing statement, and/or a joint apartment lease.

While some conservative groups have threatened to file lawsuits, saying the benefits go against Ohio's ban on gay marriage, none of the cities contacted by FOX19 have faced any law suits.

The Cincinnati City Manager's office will present its final report back to the finance committee once it's complete. Seelbach says he hopes to have something in front of council to vote on within 60 days.

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