The ACLU and ACLU of Michigan are fighting a new state law that bans many public entities from providing health care insurance to the domestic partners of their employees. The Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act does just what its title says — it takes health care coverage away from the lesbian and gay domestic partners of public employees. This law will have devastating repercussions for hardworking LGBT families across the state. The four couples named in the lawsuit are in long-term committed relationships. Several of the domestic partners need ongoing medical care for chronic conditions, and each of the families will face unfair financial burdens for simply trying to take care of one another.
Meet the Clients
Theresa Bassett and Carol Kennedy of Ann Arbor have been in a committed relationship for 25 years and have six kids ranging in age from six to 20 years old. Theresa has worked for the Ann Arbor Public Schools for 28 years and currently teaches 6th grade and 8th grade math. Theresa’s employer extends health insurance coverage to Carol who is self-employed as a daycare provider. Because of Carol’s family history of breast cancer, individual comprehensive insurance coverage will be extremely expensive. In fact, Carol estimates that purchasing comprehensive coverage on her own will cost the family an additional $800 a month, putting considerable pressure on their finances, which are already strained by a mortgage and the cost of sending two children to college.
Peter Ways and Joe Breakey of Ann Arbor have been in a committed relationship for more than 20 years and have a nine-year-old daughter. Peter works for Ann Arbor Public Schools. The district extends insurance coverage to his partner Joe who is self-employed as a licensed therapist. Being self-employed gives Joe the flexibility to be home for their daughter after school. Due to the added expense that comparable individual coverage will cost, Peter and Joe are considering a move back to Washington so that Peter could take a job that provides family benefits.
JoLinda Jach and Barbara Ramber of Kalamazoo have been in a committed relationship for 17 years and have two young children. JoLinda has worked for the City of Kalamazoo for 24 years and her employer extends health insurance coverage to Barbara who works part-time in order to be home for their kids after school. Although Barbara can purchase health insurance coverage through her employer, the $540 per month price tag is more than half of her monthly take-home pay. Current insurance contracts covering City of Kalamazoo employees and their families expire at the end of this year, and therefore Barbara’s health insurance coverage will lapse on December 31, 2012 if the challenged law remains in effect. Barbara has glaucoma and rheumatoid arthritis. Her medications alone will cost the family $300 a month without insurance coverage.
Doak Bloss and Gerardo Ascheri of Lansing have been in a committed relationship for 18 years. Doak has worked for Ingham County since 1998 and currently serves as its Health Equity and Social Justice Coordinator. Doak’s employer extends health insurance coverage to Gerardo who is self-employed as a piano instructor and does not have access to employer-provided health insurance coverage. Gerardo has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He estimates individual insurance coverage would cost the family $500 a month in premiums. The coverage would include a $1,500 deductible, a 50 percent co-pay for prescriptions and would not include dental and vision coverage.