Eagle County, in the Colorado mountains, will begin offering health insurance benefits to their employees’ same sex partners, provided the couple meets the same “common law” guidelines required for heterosexual couples to obtain benefits. Same sex partner benefits are becoming more common among private companies, but Eagle County is the first public (ie, tax-payer funded) employer in the area to take this progressive step. In general, any time you increase availability of health insurance, the effect on a community will be positive. More insured people means that claims are spread among more people, and there will be fewer instances of providers having to write off claims for uninsured patients and pass the costs along to paying clients (ie, insurance companies).
Regardless of your personal stance on same sex couples, any employer that offers health insurance to heterosexual common law partners is ethically obligated to do the same for same sex partners who meet the common law requirements. Otherwise, an employee with a same sex partner is not being compensated on an equal level with a heterosexual employee who has a common law spouse. Since benefits are considered part of the compensation package, it’s essential that they be doled out fairly and equitably. I hope to see more employers follow Eagle County’s commendable lead.