University expands medical coverage

The University expanded faculty and staff medical benefits to cover opposite-sex domestic partners, a University official confirmed last week.

GW has offered health benefits for same-sex domestic partners for several years, and University officials said the additional coverage for opposite-sex partners allows unmarried couples in committed relationships to receive the same benefits as married couples, like group life insurance.

“It is our goal to provide benefits for our employees that are as comprehensive and inclusive as possible,” Chief Human Resources Officer Louis Lemieux said. “We added this coverage in 2011 to respond to the needs of our current employees, as well as stay current in today’s market so that we can continue to attract great talent.”

To add a domestic partner of the same or opposite sex to a benefit plan, an employee must fill out a declaration of domestic partnership, which includes requirements such as sharing a residence, sharing financial obligations and being in a committed relationship for at least 6 months.

Opposite-sex domestic partnerships are becoming increasingly popular, while marriage rates in the U.S. continue to decline, according to data from The State of Our Unions, an annual report conducted by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University.

Under federal law, employer-provided health benefits for same or opposite-sex domestic partners are counted as taxable income, which means that employees with domestic partners must pay about $1,069 more a year in taxes than married employees with the same coverage, according to a 2007 report by M.V. Lee Badgett, director of a research group that studies sexual orientation policy issues.

Some employers offer extra compensation to cover the domestic partner tax. Lemieux declined to comment on whether the University offers the tax compensation.

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