Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Domestic Partners" and Salt Lake County

Jenny Wilson and Joe Hatch, democratic council members from Salt Lake County, have proposed that "domestic partners" of Salt Lake County employees should have equal insurance protections. Councilman Cort Ashton, however, said that he believes residents have already made up their minds on the issue. When amendment three of the Utah State Constitution was approved last November, it excluded gay and lesbian couples from legal marriage, and the benefits thereof. Wilson claims the benefit is not about marriage, but instead aims to expand the benefits to partners who have shared the same residence for at least a year, and are jointly responsible for living expenses.

The term "domestic partner" is nothing but a badly coined euphemism for people living together in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they're gay or not. In that sense, the proposal is not about marriage. It is about marriage rights, though. Some would say Wilson and Ashton all have some things right, and some things wrong.

I think they're both missing the real issue.

Why can't the insurance companies just step up and say, "We don't care. If you pay the premiums, you can add who you want." The only reason I can see is money. The more independent policies the insurance companies can force people to pay for, the more money they make. Covering people in the same household, whether they are married, or the children of the insured, needlessly complicates the issue.

Think about it. Why is the "who" of the household so important? If I have medical insurance through my company, and I add my wife, that's only one other person on the policy and I pay more money for it. Why does it matter whether or not it's my wife? It's still just one more person. Why does a "family" plan have to only be my wife and children? What about an elderly parent who is a dependent? My parents don't live with me, but if they did, why couldn't I put them on my insurance?

The only answer, again, is money. "Fair Insurance" is an oxymoron these days, if it ever was to begin with. I've blogged about the mess that modern health insurance is, before. This is just more fuel on the fire.

So why does Salt Lake County care about new proposals and bills, when it could be a selling point for the insurance company? All the county would have to do is demand such coverage flexibility when they renew their contracts. Whoever they're using as an insurance provider would be nuts to ignore such a large client. In fact, I think the insurance companies are too greedy to ignore it. New laws and policies wouldn't have to be passed, and the market would make the correction by itself. The repercussions on the industry may just move beyond Salt Lake County, as well. Smart coverage could become the rule, and not the exception.

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