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Civil Union Law Changes Benefits for Same-Sex Partners

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
November 12, 2008

Starting next year, eligible couples who are in a civil union will be afforded health benefits similar to those provide to married UNH employees who opt for coverage under the policy offered by USNH.

The amendment is due to the New Hampshire law that went in to effect on Jan. 1, 2008, providing individuals in civil unions with the "same rights, responsibilities, and obligations as married couples."

With the policy change comes the future loss of health benefits for domestic partners of UNH employees if the couple decides not to enter a civil union. Health care coverage will continue through June 30, 2009, at regular employee contribution rate. On July 1, COBRA will be offered to those no longer eligible for coverage.

While open enrollment ended Nov. 7, a correction period allows for changes to be made until 5 p.m. on Nov. 21. (Go to MyUSNHBenefits.net).

 Discontinuing health benefits for domestic partners aligns the policy with the current one that prevents the partner of a heterosexual UNH employee to get benefits.

Workers who decide to enter a civil union after July 1, 2009, will have 30 days from the date of the civil union to make changes to their benefits and include their civil union partner and dependents. After 30 days, employees will have to wait until the next open enrollment to make any changes.

Health care benefits are tax-free for married couples and their dependents but not for those in civil unions. As of Jan. 1, 2009, USNH will provide compensation to offset the imputed income for people in a civil union.

If health care benefits should become nontaxable at some future point for those in civil unions, same-sex marriages, or the equivalent, this mitigation will no longer be offered. Likewise, if benefits for all employees become subject to taxation, this provision will also cease to exist.

As of next year, couples will have to be married or be in a civil union to be eligible for benefits. The partners of same-sex or heterosexual couples who are not in a civil union or aren’t married will not be eligible.

However, couples will be able to apply for an exception to the two options providing  specific criteria is met. This will generally include "hardship" or legal reasons why a civil union is not a reasonable option.

For more information go to http://www.usnh.edu/hr/benefits/2009-openenrollment/civilunion-faqs.html.

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