The San Antonio Independent School District has sent a letter to its employees announcing it is expanding its group health benefits to include plus-one coverage so that employees can insure one additional adult living in their household who meets all the required criteria.
The plus-one plan permits SAISD employees in same-sex relationships to insure their partners or spouses without having to qualify their relationship as a legal marriage or domestic partnership thus eliminating any conflict with state law which forbids same-sex unions.
The insurance also applies to straight couples who are not married but live together. All of SAISD’s 7,423 employees will be eligible for the new insurance program.
“The plus one option allows all of our employees the opportunity to care for their loved ones and ensure that they have excellent quality health care. I am proud that SAISD is at the forefront on this issue not only in San Antonio but in Texas,” SAISD board member Debra Ann Guerrero told Out In SA.
Upon learning of SAISD’s plans, Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, said in an email to Out In SA:
Equality Texas applauds the San Antonio ISD on the addition of plus-one benefits to its employee benefits package. In order to remain competitive in attracting and retaining talented workers, employers must be able to treat all their workers fairly and equally. Offering plus-one benefits is a simple way to offer competitive benefits while also remaining in compliance with the laws and constitution of the state. Over the past two years, we have shown that Texas law allows for such benefits as long as the district is not creating or recognizing a legal status identical or similar to marriage. This is clearly consistent with the Texas Constitution, as well as former Attorney General Greg Abbott’s non-binding 2013 opinion on this issue. We look forward to the day very soon when same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry in Texas and be fully eligible for spousal benefits. Until that day, plus-one benefits enable employers to remain competitive and treat all their employees fairly.
The SAISD plan is similar to the plus-one insurance plans initiated by Bexar County last year. In that instance, county commissioners voted unanimously to offer the plan to county employees.
The Pflugerville Independent School District was the first in Texas to offer plus-one insurance to its employees in 2012. According to the Burnt Orange Report, “The district introduced the policy at the beginning of the year, but the school board decided to vote on it later after facing opposition. Individuals against the implementation of the new insurance policy claimed that it was condoning and normalizing homosexual relationships, which would turn schools into sex-crazed dens of debauchery . . . Ultimately, the school board approved the policy.”
One year later, the Austin Independent School District began offering a plus-one plan as well.
SAISD’s plan requires the employee and their unmarried partner or spouse to have lived together in the same residence for at least 12 consecutive months and continue to do so to remain eligible.
The insurance requires the plus-one adult to be 18 years of age or older and be financially interdependent with the employee, sharing common financial obligations. Final eligibility is determined by affidavit and proof provided on a Certificate of Plus One Individual Coverage.
SAISD spokesperson Leslie A. Price told Out In SA that enrollment for the new insurance program will be March 16 through 27. The plan takes effect on May 1, 2015.