Won’t domestic partner benefits cost too much?
Domestic partner benefits incur only a minimal increase in health care costs, and most employers do not find that dramatic numbers of employees use the policy. Yet employers agree the benefits of offering equal employee packages in terms of public relations and attracting new employees is very beneficial. Here are some real world figures on cost and enrollment:
- In April 2004, a spokesperson for American Family Insurance reported the cost of their health coverage had increased by no more than one percent since they began offering protections in 2002.
- Also as of April 2004, CUNA Mutual Insurance reported that less than one percent of their 6,000 workers had signed on for these protections.
- Public employers in Wisconsin that offer equal protections, like the City of Madison, have also reported cost increases of less than one percent.
- When the State of Illinois was first considering extending domestic partner protections to state employees, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services estimated that the cost of providing domestic partner protections would be approximately one tenth of one percent of the state’s employee health care budget.
- In 2007, Dane County reported that the cost of domestic partner protections is just over one percent of total health care expenditures.
- In 2007, the City of Milwaukee reported that the cost of its policy was less than .003 percent of the total health care expenditures.
- In 2007, Western Wisconsin Technical College reported that the cost of its policy is less than .12 percent of the school’s total budget.
- When the State of Minnesota provided domestic partnership health protections to state employees, the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations reported that the increase in cost was only .05 percent in state employee health care costs—only $189,000 out of a total health care budget of $331 million.
Is it true that domestic partner health benefits are treated as taxable income?
Yes. Unfortunately, domestic partner health insurance is treated as taxable income for federal purposes. Your employer’s contribution to your partner’s part of the premium will be taxable to you. You will pay income tax and Social Security payroll tax on the portion of the insurance premium that your employer contributes to your partner’s policy. However, if you claim your partner as a dependent on your federal tax return, this would not be taxed. To qualify as a dependent, your partner must receive more than half of his or her support from you. For more information about this issue, visit the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website.
Can’t anyone claim to have a domestic partner? How does our company avoid fraud?
Criteria for domestic partners frequently require that the partners have lived together for at least six months, are responsible for each other’s financial welfare, are at least 18 years old, and are mentally competent to enter into a legal contract. Many companies that operate in cities with government-sponsored domestic partner registries simply require that the employee be registered with his or her partner through the city registry. In Wisconsin, Madison and Milwaukee have such registries. Some employers require that employees sign an affadavit attesting to the long-term, committed nature of their relationship. For most employers, it’s more difficult to sign up a domestic partner for health insurance than it is to claim someone as your spouse.
Will our insurance company allow for such coverage?
Most major insurance companies now make domestic partner coverage possible, particularly for employers with 50 or more employees. Contact your insurance company to find out more about what they offer through their group policies. Smaller employers who cannot find an insurance company to carry a domestic partner policy will often provide some form of reimbursement for domestic partner health insurance.
Are domestic partner benefits only for same-sex couples?
No. Many companies define domestic partners as any unmarried couple—same- or opposite-sex. Fair Wisconsin chiefly advocates for same-sex domestic partner protections because same-sex couples are prohibited from marrying in Wisconsin—and therefore cannot access critical protections like health insurance coverage except through domestic partner recognition.
Domestic partner benefits are controversial—will there be a public backlash if we offer them?
Domestic partner benefits were once controversial, but today it’s becoming unusual not to provide them. More and more employees expect it, and the public supports equal protections. A 2001 statewide poll of 600 people conducted by Chamberlain Research Consultants found a majority (59 percent) of Wisconsinites support domestic partner health insurance coverage for gay couples. The sheer number of companies offering the protections also suggests that most of them have decided domestic partner benefits help their company’s image rather than hurt it. This is a mainstream business practice, and there’s really nothing controversial about it.
Is our company legally required to provide domestic partner benefits?
Your company may be required to offer domestic partner benefits if you do business with certain governments in other parts of the United States. The following cities require contracting companies to offer domestic partners the same benefits that they make available to married spouses: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Mateo County in California; King County, Seattle, and Tumwater in Washington; and Minneapolis. In 2007, the state of California will also require companies with which it contracts to offer equal benefits.
Wisconsin state law does not require that your company provide these benefits.