A Hitch in the Plans

December 24, 2010 at 11:58 am (Healthy...?) (, , , , )

My partner found out 2 weeks ago  that her company has been acquired by a bigger company based in St. Louis. Great! More opportunities for advancement, better bonuses for travel, hopefully more ‘perks’. She was feeling rather stagnated in her present job so this had the potential to become something very positive.

Cut to last week, when I was online registering us for our new health insurance plan. I fill out most of the forms and read most of the fine print in this household because although my girlfriend is a wonderful, caring person, she can’t seem to pay attention long enough to follow the instructions on a soup can, so insurance forms or our cellular phone bill are way out of her comfort zone. Anyway, I came to the page to add a spouse or dependent. I entered my name and then realized I couldn’t change the gender of the spouse on the page. It was fixed to ‘male’. Uh, what? Emails were sent out post haste. The first was, “Dear HR Person in St. Louis, I can’t add my partner to my health plan because it defaults to male, since I’m female. Please advise.”  The answer?

Unfortunately our plan does not allow for Domestic Partners. At this point there is nothing I can do.

You, “HR Benefits Specialist”, can kiss my yellow ass. So then we wrote to the former owner of the company, who is now acting as head of the west coast operations. The gist of that email was that I, as a domestic partner, was covered under the old company’s policies, as well as the law in the state of California. Any changes to this, i.e., not offering me coverage now, was unacceptable given the law (AB 2208, the California Insurance Equality Act) and that I should be covered. The first response was “we’ll get back to you.” Last night, after close of business and going into a 4 day holiday weekend, another response:

Unfortunately with the new company’s plan being partially company funded and partially employee funded we are not able to offer benefits for domestic partners.

This is California, right? I didn’t fall asleep and wake up in Texas or somewhere in the south? Holy crap, I didn’t think this would be an issue for us, ever. When people say being domestic partners is equivalent to being married so why fight for gay marriage, this is what I want them to know:   my partner’s employers think they have the right not to offer health insurance benefits to me because I am a domestic partner, not a spouse. As it stands right now, my biological child may not be covered by her insurance, either, since she’s not related by blood.

So now we have some major decisions to make. We asked for an extension of our former benefits so that I would not have a lapse in coverage after the companies merge on January 1st. They said no. They suggested I look into COBRA coverage. Do we get a lawyer? Can they actually do this in California? We’re asking our friends for advice, and so far it’s not been pleasant. One of my partner’s friends said he has COBRA now because they took away DP benefits after the whole fiasco surrounding Prop. 8 (his partner’s company ended DP benefits while same sex marriage was legal and never reinstated it) and they couldn’t sue because his partner wasn’t out.

Are we going to fight? Where does this put us as far as planning for the kid? How much more expensive is COBRA if I have to go on it? Individual insurance is not necessarily an option for me, I’ve been told I’m basically uninsurable because I have asthma. Fuckers.

I sent an email to the Nat’l Center for Lesbian Rights, hopefully they get back to me about options soon. Wish I had more than a week to get this sorted out. That it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when most people aren’t really working? Figures.

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