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News
How to solve the gay employee benefit problem


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Chad Mills
Contributing Writer
By Chad Mills
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday September 8, 2003

If two married people hate each other, are seeing other people, filing for a divorce and one works at the UA, the other is entitled to benefits for which the government will bear most of the cost. Gay partners and other people who could be closer to UA employees cannot receive such benefits.

There are many different value structures held by UA employees, and with them come many views of marriage and commitment. Many people view marriage as a sacred vow between a man and a woman to spend the rest of their lives together, and to them, it is offensive to even consider allowing gay couples to receive the same benefits as other people. On the other hand, homosexuals explain that they are humans too, and should be allowed to have their commitment honored in the same way any straight person's would.

No matter what position the government takes on this issue, it will be wrong it will sanction one particular view of commitment.

Recently, gay rights advocates have been pushing for UA employee benefits to include homosexual partners for reduced tuition, health, dental and vision insurance, among others.

The problem is that this conflict cannot be resolved by the government, since people's rights to express their own beliefs and convictions are being violated either way. Should the government say that the more traditional views about marriage are correct? Should the government decide that marriage is equivalent to homosexual partnerships? Of course not to both questions. The government shouldn't be granting anyone benefits based on their belief structure.

This means that the government should not endorse traditional or gay partnerships. Leave these issues alone; they are not the proper business of thegovernment.

Benefits are a supplement to salaries. Currently, employees are hired with a certain pay, then allowed to choose which benefits they want to purchase. For a small price on their part, employees can have the state pay them more by buying health, dental, vision, life and disability insurances. For example, UA employees must pay only $25 of a $258.22 premium to get an HMO through CIGNA.

The state pays more to people who wish to buy insurance than to people who don't. Since some people may get their insurance through their spouse's company or other sources, employees with equal salaries are given different compensation for their equally valuable time.

What's even worse is that those who have children, are married and wish to buy health insurance for their family receive a benefit that unmarried employees without children have no opportunity to receive. Again, the state is endorsing values that should be left for individuals to decide.

To resolve this situation, give employees their salary; then, allow them to purchase all the insurance they want with their own money. Though this seems like it would actually cost UA employees more money, quite the opposite is true. Instead of the uncertainty that comes with employees always being able to change the amount of compensation they receive, the UA could pay people more and never worry about increasing costs.

Since there wouldn't be a government contribution, anyone who the employee wished to pay for could receive benefits.

This would allow a wide variety of options not currently available. Employees could shop around and try to find insurance programs that best suit their needs, without worrying about the extra money the state would have paid were a plan purchased there. Instead of worrying about whether homosexuals should be covered in a plan that the state is partially funding, make the employees pay the whole thing and there won't be endorsement by the state. If a UA employee does not particularly like the institution of marriage but is deeply committed to another

person, that employee could purchase insurance for their partner. Close friends, other relatives not in the immediate family and any other person who the employee wanted to pay the full cost of covering could be included, without any debate over whose commitment is worthy of state sponsorship and at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

The question of benefits for gay UA employees is really a non-issue. Instead of imposing the values of whoever is making the decisions for the UA at any one time, simply defer judgment, raise salaries and require the employees to bear the full cost of their insurance decisions. That provides employees with more flexibility in choosing their insurance, allows people to be compensated more fairly, and completely sidesteps the issue of whether or not to endorse gay marriage and other forms of commitment that can only result in problems.

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