Same-sex marriage may save some $$

BY LINI GE | APRIL 08, 2009 7:30 AM

When Lindsey Quinn first heard about the possibility of adding same-sex partner Cybil Wriedt to her insurance plan as a spouse rather than a domestic partner, she didn’t think there would be a difference. But she jumped at it when she learned the shift could save them some money.

“Yeah, definitely, I would love to,” said the UI graduate student in linguistics.

Within a month after the couple held a wedding in late April 2007, they decided to insure themselves under a domestic-partner plan with the UI’s benefits office. Now, the two plan to get legally married on April 28 this year — the second anniversary of their wedding in Missouri. The Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage last week.

After their marriage, Quinn will be able to add Wriedt as a spouse to her insurance plan.
And that will likely make a difference.

“The difference is that [the gay couples] will see a small saving in their income because they will not be taxed by the state regarding the health insurance,” said Richard Saunders, the senior associate director of UI Human Resources. The actual coverage remains the same as that for domestic partners, he noted.

The UI became the first public university in the country to offer insurance benefits to employees’ domestic partners’ in 1993. Once a domestic partnership is confirmed, an employee can have her or his partner, of either the same or opposite sex, insured under various benefit programs, including health, dental, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.

But some university employees may not favor the option of being under the same insurance plan, including Christian Roldan Santos.

Roldan Santos was on his partner Keith Nichols’ health insurance before he had a job. The value of Roldan Santos’ coverage was included in Nichols’ gross income, which was subject to federal income tax and employment taxes, because the federal government didn’t recognize them as a married couple. Roldan Santos added Nichols to his insurance when he started graduate study at the UI. But it did not seem to fix the problem.

“Any contribution that the University of Iowa gives me to pay for my partner’s health insurance is considered income, and I would have to pay taxes on that,” said the adviser in the UI Academic Advising Center. “After a while, we realized that it was just easier and less expensive for each of us to have our own health insurance.”

A domestic partner can only be included under the before-tax program — to avoid having the premiums paid by the UI for the partner included in the employee’s gross income — if the person meets the Internal Revenue Service’s dependency guidelines, Saunders said.

“Over half of the support of the partner must be supplied by the employee,” he said. “For a lot of people, it doesn’t work.”

Roldan Santos said neither he nor Nichols intends to add one person to the other’s insurance plan if they get married, because they still have to pay the same federal taxes for their insurance coverage.

“One of the reasons I came to Iowa was the fact that the University of Iowa provides same-sex couples the benefits of heterosexual couples,” he said. “I still think we have a long way to go for the people of Iowa to fully embrace GLBTQ people and couples, but we are definitely one step ahead of the nation.”

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