State staff gets year before partners lose benefits

Review of new law also affects some adult offspring
2009-10-13T00:00:00Z State staff gets year before partners lose benefitsBy Becky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 13, 2009 12:00 am  • 

State employees will get another year of health benefits for domestic partners and some adult offspring until a law eliminates them from coverage.

A legal review determined existing contracts with state employees will be honored.

The law will change who is eligible as of Oct. 1, 2010, instead of this month, according to an Arizona Department of Administration memo dated Friday.

A bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer redefined a "dependent" to mean a "spouse under the laws of this state, a child who is under 19 years of age or is under 23 years of age and a full-time student."

That excludes domestic partners, full-time students ages 23 and 24, and disabled adult children of employees who previously qualified for benefits.

The law cancels a rule change made by former Gov. Janet Napolitano that allowed domestic partners to receive benefits.

State offices were closed Monday for Columbus Day, but the Department of Administration previously has stated that about 800 state employees are affected and that the cost to insure domestic partners is about $3 million of the $625 million the state spends on benefits.

The policy change will cut an estimated 40 same-sex partners and 130 opposite-sex partners at the University of Arizona. In a September memo, UA President Robert Shelton discussed the policy change.

"When coverage for domestic partners was announced last year, we celebrated the state's stance," he wrote. "HB 2013 challenges our values of equity and inclusion, and also appears to exclude vital health insurance coverage for many disabled dependents. Benefits parity is essential for a world-class university, and we are resolved to achieve it."

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 807-8012.

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