‘Soft’ benefits only for domestic partners at UGA

Hank Huckaby, chancellor for the University System of Georgia, told outgoing UGA President Michael Adams in a letter this month that the school could offer benefits paid for by employees, but in order to offer health insurance, it would have to be “privately funded, privately insured, privately accounted for and privately administered,” according to the AJC.

Adams said that requirement means offering health benefits “will, unfortunately, require further study,” the paper reported.

The fight for full domestic partner benefits at UGA got a boost last year when the school’s University Council approved a resolution seeing full domestic partner benefits.

 The state Board of Regents sets health insurance policy for all state colleges and universities and has previously refused to take-up domestic partner benefits. The UGA proposal, which originated with the campus staff LGBT group GLOBES, called on UGA to pay for the health benefits from other funding if the Regents block it.

Adams said then that he hoped to have benefits implemented by the end of the fiscal year and the day he steps down as president after serving for 17 years —  June 30, 2013.

“What we are proposing is not radical or unusual at all,” Janet Frick, chair of the University Council’s Human Resources Committee, told GA Voice after a Sept. 13 committee vote on the benefits.

The proposal also stated that 75 percent of UGA’s peer and aspirational institutions already offer benefits similar to those being proposed at UGA. Faced with the possibility that the statewide University System Board of Regents or the state legislature may take action to oppose UGA’s use of state funds to offer domestic partnership benefits, the proposal cited multiple examples of public universities elsewhere that have used other sources to fund such benefits.

The Universities of Florida, Arizona and Wyoming all have domestic partnership benefits which are funded by sources other than state funds.

University of Florida provides benefits using federal contracts, grants and discretionary funds from the University of Florida Foundation.  University of Arizona offers special plans not using state funds to provide such benefits for their employees.  

University of Wyoming employees are eligible to receive vouchers which match funds provided for opposite-sex spouses. These vouchers are paid for using external research funding, most of which is federally funded.

Frick told the Red & Black, UGA’s independent student newspaper, that the health benefits would likely cost about $270,000 per year. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, that amounts to 0.5 percent of the cost currently paid for UGA employee health benefits. 

Frick told the student paper that the benefits could be paid for by discretionary funds or the university could give employees enrolling in domestic partner benefits $450 per month, which is what the university pays for health insurance for the spouse of an employee.

Dyana Bagby contributed. 

PHOTO: UGA President Michael Adams said that offering full health benefits to University of Georgia employees ‘will, unfortunately, require further study. (Photo via uga.edu)