Q&A on benefits for other qualified adults at the University of Michigan
Nov. 14, 2011
Q. What is this domestic partner legislation seeking to do?
A. House Bill 4770-71 would, according to an analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency, create the “Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act” to prohibit a public employer from providing medical benefits or other fringe benefits for an individual currently residing in the same residence as an employee of the public employer, if the individual were not one or more of the following: married to the employee; a dependent of the employee, as defined by the Internal Revenue Code; otherwise eligible to inherit from the employee under laws of interstate succession in this state.
Q. Why did President Coleman and Provost Hanlon send a letter to state senators urging them to vote again this legislation?
A. President Coleman and Provost Hanlon wanted to make sure state senators heard directly from U-M officials about the negative impact on the university if this legislation were to become law. As they said in the letter:
“The loss of our ability to offer such benefits would put the University, and our state, at a serious disadvantage compared to peers. Fortune 500 companies nationwide and in the state of Michigan offer partner benefits: It is simply good business that produces an excellent return on investment. In the state of Michigan some of our most well-known and respected corporate neighbors – such as Dow Chemical, Ford, General Motors and Whirlpool – all provide such benefits.”
Q. Why is this an important issue for the university?
A. It’s important because it’s an issue that touches on a number of very important issues for the university.
It’s about staying competitive: “The University of Michigan must be able to offer an excellent benefit package to our employees and to those we hope to recruit to U-M for their unique talents, skills and expertise. The environment for such talent is extraordinarily competitive, and our ability to attract and retain top faculty and staff is a significant asset for the state of Michigan.”
It’s about attracting the best talent to our state: “In the absence of benefits that are widely offered elsewhere, employees currently responsible for providing health coverage for their families may well leave, and other top candidates will choose not to come. The loss of our ability to offer such benefits would put the University, and our state, at a serious disadvantage compared to peers. Fortune 500 companies nationwide and in the state of Michigan offer partner benefits: It is simply good business that produces an excellent return on investment.”
It’s about fairness: “The state of Michigan and the University of Michigan are phenomenal places to call home, offering a tremendous quality of life and a welcoming environment that is appealing to top people from across the country and around the world. We have long worked with our corporate and public sector colleagues to make it so, and it is a core value of our institution to maintain that quality for all who are part of our community.”
Q. How many “domestic partners” are covered by health insurance at U-M?
A. This year, 570 qualified adults receive benefits, and 48 dependent children.
Q. How much does that coverage cost the university?
A. The annual cost to the university for this coverage is approximately $3,072 per person. This represents $1.9 million of our total $302 million health benefit cost. The investment of less than 0.7 percent of the total helps us recruit and keep top talent in Michigan.
Q. If the stated goal of the legislation is to save money, how much would such a ban save the university?
A. We do not believe there are any real savings from this legislation. We’ve already heard from some employees who say that if this legislation is approved, they will seek employment outside the state of Michigan. Since these positions would then need to be filled, the university would not realize a net reduction in health care costs.
Q. If this legislation is approved, will the university fight it in court?
A. The university feels very strongly that this legislation is bad for the state and bad for the university community. We’re doing everything we can to urge members of the state senate to defeat this bill.
What steps we may or may not take if it becomes law will be addressed at that time.
Q. How does this relate to the Marriage Amendment to the state constitution that was approved by voters in 2004?
A. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Marriage Amendment, which restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman, also prohibits public employers in Michigan from providing health benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of their employees.
The university does not offer benefits on the basis of same-sex domestic partner relationships. The university’s benefits, available to other qualified adults and dependents living with an employee, are in full compliance with the state constitution.