Domestic partner coverage gains ground

March 15, 2012

Gay marriage makes headlines, but health coverage for domestic partners is quietly becoming more common as top employers seek ways to further define their corporate culture and provide attractive benefit plans.

Gay marriage makes headlines, but health coverage for domestic partners is quietly becoming more common as top employers seek ways to further define their corporate culture and provide attractive benefit plans.

According to GoHealthInsurance.com, companies like Expedia, Walgreens, Target, Starbucks and Gap are now offering insurance options that include domestic partners. However, there is plenty of room for growth. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) maintains a list of “Best Places to Work” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees based on 40 specific policies and practices related to the LGBT community. According to HRC, only 190 of the 850 businesses evaluated achieved a perfect score in the 2012 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) rating.

“In the 1990s, the benefits were pretty much non-existent,” says Michael Mahoney of GoHealthInsurance.com. “Since then many companies have started to add them. Throughout the years, there has been more focus on gender equality and corporations are sometimes judged on their benefits and non-discrimination policies.”

According to the HRC, 57% of Fortune 500 companies now offer same sex benefits. That number is similar to results of a 2007 survey by Hewitt Associates that found 54% of surveyed firms offered coverage to domestic partners. In 2002, the same study showed that only 19% of surveyed firms offered domestic partner benefits.

“The data shows that there has been a significant increase in offering same-sex couples health insurance benefits,” says Mahoney. “Also, more states have legalized gay marriage, which leads to more same-sex couples getting health insurance benefits. As states continue to legalize gay marriage, more same-sex couples will be able to utilize benefits through a spouse.”

To keep up with the trend, health insurance companies may want to join organizations that support workplace equality. For example, Aetna is a founding corporate partner of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The company also works closely with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a national organization committed to ending employment discrimination for LGBT employees. Aetna has achieved a perfect CEI rating for 10 years in a row.

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