Domestic Partner Benefits Costly
Special Report - January 6, 2010
Federal legislation that would extend government health and life insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of certain federal employees would cost the U.S. government nearly $900 million in direct and discretionary spending over the next nine years, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO released the cost estimate report for H.R. 2517-Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 on December 17, in response to an order from the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform, which voted in favor of the bill in November. H.R. 2517 was introduced in the House by Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and currently has 138 co-sponsors, including North Carolina Rep. David E. Price. Similar legislation in the Senate sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has 26 co-sponsors, and was recently voted out of committee and is headed for a vote in the full Senate. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, should Congress enact it.
HR 2715 defines “domestic partner” as: “an adult unmarried person living with another adult unmarried person of the same sex in a committed, intimate relationship.” According to the CBO report, it would make the same-sex partners of federal employees, including retired employees and active employees of the U.S. Postal Service, “eligible to receive the same employee benefits as married couples,” including health and dental insurance, life insurance, worker’s compensation, and travel and relocation benefits, among others. The bill excludes members of the armed forces from eligibility.
The CBO estimates that the bill’s enactment could increase direct spending by $596 million through 2019, but notes that it would have “no direct impact on federal revenues.” Additionally, the CBO estimates that HR 2715 would increase discretionary spending by $302 million over the same time period, should it become law. The CBO also found that “providing additional health insurance benefits through the Federal Employee Health Benefit program causes the largest increase in both mandatory and discretionary spending$590 million and $266 million, respectively.” According to the report, the legislation would impose no costs on state, local and tribal governments. The CBO based its cost estimates on the assumption that about 0.33 percent of federal employees would register a same-sex domestic partner.
Closer to home, in December, Mecklenburg County approved a policy to extend health insurance and leave benefits to the same-sex partners of homosexual county employees, joining a handful of counties, cities and towns in North Carolina that offer similar benefits to the unmarried partners of local government employees (Orange and Durham Counties, Durham, Greensboro, Chapel Hill and Carrboro). The city of Charlotte is considering a similar policy.
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