Soon after Northwestern University professor Robert Fourer entered into a civil union, he did what many others in newly recognized relationships have done: He applied to add his partner to his health insurance.There is a wrinkle in this:
But Northwestern denied his request because his partner is a woman.
The university's top-tier PPO insurance plan is available to same-sex partners in a civil union, but not to heterosexual couples in the same type of legal relationship. Male-female partners are eligible only for the university's HMO plan — unless they marry, in which case they can pick either plan.
Fourer and DePaul University professor Sandra Maria Benedet, an Evanston couple in their early 60s, decided to enter into a civil union shortly after it became legal in part because they support equal rights for same-sex couples. So they were shocked to learn that when it comes to Northwestern's health insurance, same-sex pairs get a better deal.
"The (civil union) law makes no distinction, but somehow they are making a distinction," said Fourer, an engineering professor at Northwestern for 33 years. "I am not happy with it. It is somewhat intrusive. Why should they be bugging me about the gender of my partner?"
At a time of year when employees are signing up for next year's health insurance coverage, Illinois' recent civil union law is raising new, and sometimes unexpected, complications about eligibility.
Among other developments, some employers that previously offered benefits for same-sex domestic partners now require proof of a civil union to get insurance.
The law in this area is complicated. Employers who offer fully insured health coverage have to provide benefits to civil union partners to the same extent they provide them to married spouses, but employers with self-insured plans can choose who gets the benefits. Northwestern has both — the fully insured HMO and the self-funded PPO.The issues that come up with radical changes. Illinois has civil unions and that's not without its issues. I've accepted civil unions but I do support treating all couples the same as - according to this article - the University of Chicago is doing.
"After further discussion regarding insurance eligibility for civil union partners, it was determined that in a heterosexual relationship, the partner is eligible only for the fully insured plans," the benefits specialist wrote in an email to Fourer, which he provided to the Tribune.
Fourer, however, was enrolled in the university's PPO plan. Therefore, "Sandra is unable to join your plan at this time," the employee wrote, adding that Fourer could switch to the HMO plan, and add her, effective Jan. 1.
After that is what the push for gay marriage/civil unions are about, treating couples the same?