Panel OKs domestic partner benefits

CARSON CITY — A panel that oversees the state employee health insurance plan voted Thursday to extend benefits to domestic partners, including those of the same sex, and their children.

The Public Employees’ Benefits Program board also voted to recommend to Gov. Jim Gibbons and the Legislature that the state provide funding to extend a state-paid insurance subsidy to domestic partners and their children. Extending the subsidy would cost an estimated $3 million a year.

A subsidy is provided by the state now to employees to cover their spouses and children.

The expansion of the health care plan to cover domestic partners is not expected to take effect until the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Leslie Johnstone, executive officer of the program, said officials will need several months to draft regulations for the new policy.

The rules for the policy, referred to as providing health benefits to reciprocal beneficiaries, must win approval from the Legislative Commission before they can take effect.

It is unlikely the work could be done in time for the 2008-09 fiscal year, Johnstone said.

And because the Legislature would have to approve the cost of expanding the health insurance subsidy to domestic partners, it could not become available until the 2009-10 year, Johnstone said.

The decisions made by the board filled in the details of a previous vote. The board had voted unanimously in December to move forward with covering domestic partners.

But Johnstone said the December vote had been the subject of different interpretations by board members and others.

The changes approved Thursday were intended to make clear to everyone what the new policy will be, she said. Johnstone and her staff now will draft rules implementing the board decisions.

Reaction was mixed.

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Gary Peck applauded the board for its decision.

The board “had the vision and courage to do the right thing by extending these benefits to people who clearly deserve them,” he said. “This is another step on the long road to equality for all of Nevada’s residents and workers.”

He added that the fight over such benefits isn’t over, but he expects that “the Legislature … will do the right thing.”

But Richard Ziser, the chairman of Nevada Concerned Citizens, said the state should not be spending money on such benefits.

“It seems a little ironic, when the governor and everyone is having to cut budgets, that they want to add expenses,” he said.

Ziser, who spoke to the board in opposition of the idea last year and who five years ago backed a successful effort to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, said adding the benefits also is unnecessary.

“It’s such a small number of public employees who could take advantage of it,” he said. “You don’t change public policy for that small of a number.”

Ziser said offering such benefits would require a new “definition of a spouse” in Nevada law, and the board, as a non-elected body, doesn’t have the authority to do so.

But Peck said the idea that offering the benefits has anything to do with Nevada’s “Protection of Marriage” act is “flat-out wrong.”

“It has nothing to do with the sanctity of marriage,” Peck said. “It’s about benefits and equality.”

The original request to include domestic partners in the state health plan came from the Nevada System of Higher Education. University and college presidents told the board in June that extending benefits to partners is essential to their ability to recruit top professors and administrators.

A petition filed by the campus presidents last year said that between 1999 and 2006, the number of colleges and universities offering health benefits to non-married adults in such relationships increased from 122 to 290.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas President David Ashley said Thursday the system’s two universities, five colleges and the Desert Research Institute would be more competitive with the extended benefits.

“As major research universities, both UNR and UNLV are competing with the universities that have this very same benefit,” Ashley said.

The vote by the health plan board to cover both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners was not unanimous. The vote was 5-3, with some suggestion that the policy be directed solely at same-sex partners.

Board member Julia Teska argued that the policy should cover all domestic partners.

“I don’t think we should even deal with the issue of whether people are same sex or opposite sex,” she said. “If we are going to offer domestic partnership coverage, we should offer domestic partnership coverage and not specify, get into, what type of couple they are.”

Vice Chairwoman Jacque Ewing-Taylor said that the issue in one of equity and that all domestic partners should be covered.

The panel acknowledged the cost factor involved and that it comes at a time of cutbacks in the state budget.

Covering all domestic partners is more costly. An estimate has about 1 percent of the health plan households would be affected with expanding the benefit to same-sex partners only. An estimated 2.7 percent of households will be affected by the board’s vote to cover everyone.

Some requirements were approved for the expanded benefit, such as an affidavit that would include a declaration that partners are in a committed relationship. The board also voted against providing health care coverage to partners if they are employed and can get health insurance from their own employers.

Review-Journal writers Lynnette Curtis and Lawrence Mower contributed to this report.

News Videos
Jim Foley talks about 30 years of living HIV-positive
Jim Foley, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 30 years ago, talks at his home in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Traffic Slows to a Crawl on I-15S Near Primm
Traffic slowed to a crawl around 2:30p Sunday, on I-15S near Primm, Nevada.
Homeless residents speak about safety
The homeless residents living at the corner of Owens Ave. and Main St. reflect on how they feel about their safety after two homeless men died, one was hit crossing the street and another was beat to death by another homeless man. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing