Murray State insurance plans differ for same-sex couples

For years, Murray State has provided health insurance for its employees and their spouses or significant others, but only recently has this offer been extended to employees currently in same-sex relationships. The insurance offered to those in same-sex relationships, however, is at an unsubsidized cost.

Depending on which of three levels of insurance coverage an employee of Murray State might wish to purchase for their partner, heterosexual couples could pay $19.30, $120 or $255.80 a month. If the partner in question is the same sex, or they are not married, insurance falls under the Extended Family plan and can cost $368.29, $419.60 or $478.02.

Jody Cofer Randall, LGBT program coordinator, said the discrepancy in insurance cost at the University is almost a form of discrimination.

“It’s like they’re dangling it out there,” Cofer Randall said. “‘Yes, you can buy it, but we know you don’t make enough to pay for it, so it doesn’t matter.’ No one buys it because they can’t afford it, and so if we really want to talk about fairness, is that really fair?”

Cofer Randall said one of the reasons for leaving the insurance unsubsidized for same-sex couples at Murray State is because of Kentucky’s Constitutional Amendment 1 which makes it unconstitutional to recognize same-sex marriages or “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.” Therefore, funds Murray State receives from the state cannot be used to help lower the cost of insurance for same-sex relationships.

Cofer Randall said at the University of Louisville, they have found a way to provide subsidized insurance for University employees in same-sex relationships by tapping into foundation money.

“(Universities) can do anything they want with their foundation money, what donors give us, because it is not state money,” he said. “So if a gay employee buys health insurance at the University of Louisville, they tap into their foundation account to make it equivalent to what a straight couple would pay.”

Maeve McCarthy, chair of the Insurance and Benefits Committee, said the issue of allowing same-sex couples to purchase insurance at a cheaper, subsidized cost has never been raised with the committee.

The Insurance and Benefits Committee is made up of 16 faculty and staff members and is in charge of bringing forward recommendations from members of Staff Congress and Faculty Senate to the president, not implementing policies for the University.

She said the total cost of insurance for employees who get their insurance through the University is $11 million.

McCarthy said the committee typically brings forward recommendations regarding the University’s medical plan in the spring semester, but the University will not set its premiums until after the summer, during which time the recommendation will be analyzed by Murray State’s consulting company.

 

Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer