Same-sex partners to have health plan

Board of Trustees approves policy to go into effect on July 1.

Partners in same-sex domestic relationships at Ball State now have similar health-care benefits as heterosexual couples.

The Board of Trustees, at its December meeting, approved the revision to Ball State's employee health care plan, which is scheduled to go into effect no later than July 1.

Specific details of the revisions have not been addressed by the administration, said H. O'Neal Smitherman, executive assistant to President Blaine Brownell. The board, he said, only approved the policy and its overall guidelines.

The impending plan would require partners to satisfy a set of requirements issued by the university to receive coverage. Pending requirements include proof by employees and their partners of cohabitation and evidence of an exclusive relationship for at least six months.

Documentation proving a binding, contractual financial relationship would also be necessary.

Smitherman said heterosexual marriages do not require additional documentation upon being recognized by the law. Same-sex relationships, though, require proof of a binding relationship between partners to recognize the individuals' eligibility for benefits.

"We're not asking anyone to allow us to pry into their personal relationships," Smitherman said. "We would simply require the couple in question to provide information about their commitment to one another."

The university would also require the partners to sign a confidential affidavit proving requirements were met, and they would be required to notify Ball State immediately if the relationship would be terminated.

Judi Egbert, assistant professor in the department of social work, said she believes the plan is a "valiant effort" by the university to include everyone in its benefits package.

"Many times when one speaks of diversifying programs for a group, they don't keep sexual orientation in mind," Egbert said. "If you look at how this has affected other universities with similar programs, and whether backlash has occurred as a result, you'd find it really hasn't happened."

Gary Nelson, president of Spectrum, Ball State's gay, lesbian and bisexual student association, said the approval has been a move long in the making.

"This is just one more step to Ball State trying to provide its students and faculty with everything they need," Nelson said. "I'm actually surprised something like this hasn't been passed before."

Nelson said he hopes the new benefits package will attract potential homosexual employees.

"A lot of gay couples think they need to be in big cities in order to receive these benefits, but gay people aren't just in San Francisco and New York," he said. "They're everywhere - including Muncie - and it's time people start realizing that fact."

Smitherman said a more comprehensive explanation of the plan will be announced after further review of its guidelines, but he said he does not feel adding the revision will substantially increase premiums.

According to Smitherman, similar policies at other universities sparked less than a two percent increase in rates.


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