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Oct. 13, 2011 Volume 33, No. 8

Board of Curators to review possibility of domestic partner benefits


No movement on decision expected this year

Faculty Council last week learned the University of Missouri Board of Curators has agreed to take up the issue of extending domestic partner benefits in its current health care plan for employees.

Harry Tyrer, MU Faculty Council chair, announced to the council at its regular meeting Oct. 6 that the chairman of the Board of Curators, Warren Erdman, indicated in a statement that “while he does not intend to bring forth expansion of employee health benefits this year” the board has assigned to its compensation and human resources committee a review of the policy related to domestic partner benefits for employees.

“I believe this is the highest that such an effort has gone,” Tyrer said, adding that it’s “a step in the right direction.”

Leona Rubin, faculty council member and associate professor of veterinary biomedical sciences, said the matter of same-sex health care benefits for university employees has never gone to the full board for review and it is “very positive.” Rubin said she believes after years of many groups attempting to have benefits expanded to domestic partners, pressure from letter-writing campaigns helped.

“We got a lot of help on this,” Rubin said. “We got a lot of help from students. We got letters of support from all kinds of groups, from local campuses. We have letters of support from the Council of Deans of MU and UMKC and I do think that pushed the teeter-totter to the other side.”

Rubin said without extending domestic partner benefits, the ability to recruit faculty is hindered — a message the Council of Deans also presented to the board via letter, she added.

There are budgetary concerns, however, as state funding continues to fall and health care costs rise.

In 2010, it was estimated — by a Faculty Council diversity enhancement committee that had researched the matter — that 64 percent of employers who provide domestic partner benefits see their costs go up by 1 percent or less; 88 percent of employers see an increase of 2 percent or less.

If the university experiences a 2 percent increase in medical costs, that would translate into approximatly $3 million more annually. But, because employees pay roughly 27 percent of that cost through premiums and co-pays, the estimated cost increase to the university could be about $2.2 million annually.

Rubin urged Faculty Council members to continue the letter-writing campaign, urging high-profile individuals to pledge their support.

“I think that we probably need to keep pushing.”