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USA, Nebraska: County Extends Benefits to Partners of Same Sex Couples

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

NebraskaA Nebraska county took a progressive step this week for its gay and lesbian couples in county government.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Sarpy County commissioners have decided to extend health insurance benefits to spouses of gay county employees who have legally married in another state but live in Nebraska. Sarpy-County-NEThe Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 for the change on Tuesday. Under the previous policy, same-sex couples were allowed health benefits if they were legally married in another state and lived in a state that allowed it, such as nearby Iowa. Board Chairman Jim Thompson said the old policy was, in effect, telling some employees that they had to leave their Nebraska homes and quit paying Nebraska taxes so they could live in Iowa and pay Iowa taxes. He voted for the change.

Even in Nebraska, LGBT rights are taking a step forward.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Nebraska.

USA: Walmart to Give Health Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Walmart LogoWalmart is making a welcome change to its policy regarding its same-sex employees.

Pink News reports:

The largest retailer in the US, Walmart, has announced that it is to offer health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners beginning next year. The second largest employer after the federal government announced in a postcard sent to workers this week, that domestic partners of its US employees will from 1 Jan 2014 be eligible to the health insurance benefits. Walmart’s change in policy will cover same-sex couples, and the domestic partners of opposite-sex couples who have been living together and in a relationship for a year or more.

While we don’t agree with many of Walmart’s policies, we do applaud this change.

Vermont, USA: New Bill Would Require Insurance Companies to Offer Gay and Straight Couples Same Benefits

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Vermont Binational Lesbian CoupleThe House in Vermont has just passed a bill to help level the playing field for gay and lesbian couples when it comes to health coverage. LGBTQ Nation reports:

Advocates say the measure would go a long way toward extending the rights of gay and lesbian couples in Vermont. Progressive Party Rep. Chris Pearson of Burlington, who co-sponsored the legislation, said it’s an important step in an “ongoing process” of “peeling back the layers of discrimination.”

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Vermont.

“Marrying” Your Financial Matters Together so that Both Spouses Share the Burden

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Hello there!

This is another one of those topics that’s not specific to gay weddings — it’s just good advice for every married married couple out there, and for partners who are considering formalizing their relationship.  If you’re gay and “married” in a state that doesn’t actually have gay marriages, you probably have more paperwork than most couples just to keep yourselves covered so that you can both have the rights of any other straight couple in your state.  If you’re gay and at least half of the couple is military, you’re going to need a whole other file cabinet to keep your important business organized in a way that is functional for BOTH of you.  So let’s jump in to this topic with both feet!

The new Mr. and Mr. Dwayne and Rodney Byrum showing off their rings... before they went home to sort out their legal paperwork!

The new Mr. and Mr. Dwayne and Rodney Byrum showing off their rings… before they went home to sort out their legal paperwork!

Who pays the bills in your household?  You or your spouse?  Do you share the responsibility?  And if yes, how is that working out for you?  Most couples find that it’s nearly impossible for more than one person to be responsible for the monthly obligations because only one person can be absolutely sure that everything that has to get paid gets paid, and only one person can keep exact track of how much money is where.  Meanwhile there are piles and piles of receipts, important documents, paperwork and policies that have to be filed and organized and maintained.  Is it any wonder that financial matters cause rifts in so many relationships and marriages?My husband and I have regular fights about this topic because I get sick of being responsible for paying everything.  It’s not that he doesn’t contribute financially – that’s not the point – he puts in more than me, I’m sure.  It’s just that he’s sorta semi-retired (depends how many weddings we’ve got because he only works a few hours a day when there are no clients on island) and I put in an 18-hour day on a regular basis, so I think it would be nice if he would take some of the burden of household responsibility off of me.  I do appreciate that he does the laundry, but the laundry doesn’t call from an 800-number when you’re too busy to deal with it.

The problem is that if I threw down and gave Bill an ultimatum, he would pay the bills.  But he would pay them his way.  Unfortunately, our systems don’t mesh.  He believes in an old-fashioned slotted thing with dates on it so he knows what’s due when and when to write and mail checks.  In my world, I pay it all online, instantly.  When I get around to it.  We have such an insane life that although I’m often late in taking care of our personal business, but by using auto-pay and other electronic features, I keep us out of debtor’s prison.  I fear my husband’s proposed antiquated system – for God’s sake, I haven’t even ordered new checkbooks in five years cuz we use them so infrequently.  As such, he wins and I’m stuck paying the bills because I’m more afraid of a paper system getting lost in the fray than I am of losing yet another hour of sleep getting things done.  Call me a neurotic control freak… I’ll own it.  Call my husband a lucky bastard… he’ll own it.

Do you have any idea how many marriages break up because of money problems?  It’s not about gay or straight.  Sometimes it’s not even about whether you actually have or don’t have money.  It’s about how the money is managed (or mismanaged) and the perceptions both spouses have about how their partner makes good or bad decisions about finances.  When a marriage is solid, it’s easy to be on the same page about dollars and sense (pun intended).  But when life is already throwing your curveballs, it’s easy to use money as vehicle for a bigger argument.

Let’s face it, there’s always something you can come up with that your spouse probably shouldn’t have purchased at one time or another.  I know that when Bill learned during a news media interview last year how much money we actually spent eight years ago on our wedding on Vieques Island and the black-tie reception back in DC a week later, he nearly flipped.  He’d had no idea.  Yes, he was there while I was making decisions and he did join my mom and I one the planning trip on the island, but he didn’t really seem to hear anything we were discussing.  He asked once or twice if we’d be able to afford it all and I assured him it would be paid off shortly after the wedding and he was okay with that.  It was seriously eight years later that it clicked and nearly set him off.  By that time, I just laughed at him.

Having a plan and an overall joint philosophy about money is mission critical for a happy marriage.  It’s something you can start working on before you get married so that when you make the transition, it’s not quite as harsh.  But once you’re a team legally (whether by legal union or by having intermingled your lives via legal paperwork) as well as emotionally, you need to have a person who is the lead for taking care of the paperwork in the family.   Paying the bills, doing the filing of the paperwork, managing health insurance paperwork, paying the other insurances (home, car, life, etc.), is a big responsibility and one that must be shared logistically and emotionally if not in actuality.  Remember, once you are legally joined, if one of you tanks your credit, you’re both stuck with lousy credit for a long time.  You are linked in so many ways that it’s hard to imagine.  Next time you go for a car loan, your spouses’s defunct, never-paid (and rarely used), post-college gym membership may pop up to ruin your day. Don’t freak – everything is fixable.  It’s just never immediate.

How can the burden be shared?  One person really does need to keep the books, so to speak, or you end up bouncing checks on each other by mistake.  But that doesn’t mean the other partner can’t be the filing guru – there’s a lot of paperwork in life.  Once you have children it gets even worse.  That stuff has to be done on a regular basis or you end up in paperwork hell.  Scanning is an excellent idea but it also requires time and attention to get it all into the computer.  Once a year, Bill and I usually have to suck it up and sort paperwork for two days on big tables to get it all put away in the right places.  Don’t let that happen to you.  It’s sorta like the “you cook, I clean” work-share philosophy.  Whoever who takes on the responsibility of paying all the bills monthly should be able to rest assured that their better half is going to file them away neatly where they can be located if there’s a problem or question.

There’s no reason to let managing your finances put a damper on our married life.  You just need a plan for the money and a plan for the paper and you need to stick to them.  If things don’t work, look for strategies that will work for your particular lifestyle.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques (www.weddingsinvieques.com) and Weddings in Culebra (www.weddingsinculebra.com)!

Sandy

 

Five Things Every Couple Should Do When They Get Married

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Congratulations!

You met the love of your life, you made the big decision to get married, and now you’ve taken that gi-normous step together.  Surviving the wedding planning process and the actual weekend of events is only Step 1 of the becoming-married process.  Despite what your credit card statements may be telling you, the wedding was the FUN part.  Real life isn’t as much fun.  And when you get back from the honeymoon, there are five things that are critically important for you to do immediately.  Let’s just call it getting your married house in order.

1)    Make a decision about whether to change your name (or names).  Make the decision ahead of time and figure out what it takes to change it in your state.  If gay marriage is legal where you live, it may be easy.  If not, you may have to go through some additional legal hassles first.  But you should discuss your game plan ahead of time because if you are going to disagree, better to solve this before the actual wedding.  Second, when you get back from your honeymoon, if you’re eligible for legal marriage or domestic partner status, you’re gonna have to boogie if you want to change your name in time to register for other benefits that come with enrollment deadlines.  Start at the social security office, and then the receipt they give you there is the pass you need to make the changes at DMV.  If you got legally married, a new driver’s license and social security card and a scan of your marriage license is all you need to change all your accounts and other things.  Don’t forget that frequent flier cards or you’ll be in a hot mess when you try to travel.  I learned that one that hard way.  Keep in mind that if you keep your maiden name and drop your middle name, life is a lot easier when you encounter a name you forgot to change.   More than once I’ve had to show somebody that my driver’s license says I’m Sandra NELSON Malone.

2)    Re-evaluate your health insurance situation.  Not everybody has the same rights, but gay couples are getting more and more of them, state by state.  If you can share the legal benefits of marriage or domestic partnership, this is an important piece.  First, figure out who has the better health insurance offered at work, and who gets the best dental or eye coverage?  Is there a benefit to having more than one policy?   And if you’ve never thought about these things before because you never get sick, talk to your parents or somebody else who has dealt with being a grown up and has managed medical insurance. Research your options pre-wedding and have the paperwork ready when you get home.  Most employers require you to enroll within 30 days of your wedding date or you have to wait until the next open enrollment period.  Don’t miss your window!

3)    It’s time for total financial disclosure if you didn’t go through this hideous process pre-wedding.  No secrets.  Tell each other about every credit card debt (department store cards count) and the car you had repo’d in college.  You’re married and now you’ve absorbed each other’s credit ratings and debt, to some extent.  Honest to God, there is nothing you cannot face together in a new marriage.  You will come out stronger.  Just be honest about it all.

Unless there’s a very good reason not to (one of you is still mired in a bankruptcy or something like that), you should be setting up joint checking accounts and getting at least one joint credit card together (or adding each other to your cards).  You should take a look at your retirement accounts and decide whether you’re doing the best things for yourselves given your new tax status.  You should set monthly contribution goals together as a couple.  You should design your financial future together and consider talking to a professional if you’re clueless.  The decisions you make now will decide what kind of porch your rockers are sitting on in your old age.

It’s time to exchange passwords and make sure you both know where all the money is located.  I know that one of you will be the primary bill payer in your household – it’s the way it works – but that doesn’t mean the other partner shouldn’t also have access to that stash of passwords and know where everything is kept and which accounts pay what bills.  You should both know what bills to which credit card and what comes directly out of your accounts.  Also, most bank accounts have asked you who your “beneficiary” is in the event of your death, and you probably put your mom’s name down (or God forbid, your former spouse) when you opened the account.  It’s time to check on this for every account at each bank and investment company to make the right people will get the money if something happens to you.

4)    Re-evaluate all of your insurance coverage in light of getting married, not just health insurance.  Life insurance and homeowners is relevant too – is all of your jewelry covered or do you need some riders?  What about the cars?  You probably don’t need to retitle anything, but you definitely need to get a joint policy unless one of you has a driving record that prevents that.

Life insurance is one of those things that nobody wants to talk about.  But the fact is that you can buy policies cheaper and with fewer restrictions when you are young and healthy – so do it now.  Also, this is when you really need it.  If you have bought a home together and bought vehicles and maybe started a family, and God forbid, one of you is killed in an accident – what would the other one of you do?  If you’re like most of America, your income and your spending have grown disproportionately.  In this economy, most people are making less and still spending more.  Most people have some credit card debt or college loans they’re paying off.  An insurance policy is just that – it’s there in case of an emergency.  In a “God forbid” situation, at least you won’t be scrambling to pay the mortgage or tuition bill.

5)    Finally, you need to write your wills.  You might have one on file already that needs to be replaced with your new one so there’s no confusion.  You may never have written one before.  You can do it online, if you must, but if either of you has significant assets, use a lawyer.  Please use a lawyer.  Assuming that you’re probably gay if you’re reading this, you know that nothing is easy for gay couples – and nothing is cheap.  Get a really good attorney to protect your assets.  You may have to put some things in an LLC if you’re not in a gay-friendly state.  But for God’s sake, don’t put it off assuming you have plenty of time to get on top it.

Nowadays you should also discuss other things such as Living Wills and Do Not Resuscitate orders in the case where one of you is brain dead after an accident.  It may seem crazy to think about, but I’m pretty sure Terri Schiavo’s husband wishes they’d put this sort of thing in writing so he didn’t spent half of his life trying to end hers.  She wasn’t that old when she was turned into a vegetable by a potassium imbalance that deprived her brain of oxygen.  The law automatically makes spouses or registered domestic partners each other’s primary decision maker in the case of incapacitation in most states, but if gay marriage isn’t legal in your state, you may have a whole host of paperwork to tackle to protect your rights under these circumstances.  It’s also not a bad idea to have a separate medical power of attorney written up, just to cover your bases.  Put a copy of each of your wills in your safe deposit box – and give a copy to somebody else.  If you don’t have an attorney, give it to somebody trustworthy in the event of either or both of your deaths.

Well, that certainly was a depressing list of business items for newlyweds to attend to, wasn’t it?  I’m depressed now with you, and I’ve already gone through the paperwork of starting a marriage.  But it’s the truth.  These are the housekeeping matters that new couples must tackle after the honeymoon.  It’s not fun and it’s not really even that interesting, but these are the things that make up the foundation of married life.  Putting everything into place so that Mr. and Mr. or Ms. and Ms. means more than just a box you checkmark as your salutation when shopping online.  It’s about mingling your lives completely and becoming one – at least on the paperwork.  There’s good news here for those of you who are happily married though – you only have to do most of this stuff once!

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques  and Weddings in Culebra!

Sandy

GA: Savannah City Council Approves Domestic Partner Benefits

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Georgia Gay MarriageWith a unanimous vote Thursday, the Savannah City Council agreed to extend domestic partner benefits to city employees. The approval means that when the city begins its annual health insurance enrollment in November, any of its estimated 2,500 employees who are in domestic partner relationships will be able to sign up companions for benefits.

Beth Robinson, the city’s director of human resources, said research from other cities, including Atlanta and Athens, shows the cost of coverage increased by only about 1 percent. Savannah last year spent $20 million on prescription drugs and other medical costs for workers, which means domestic partner expenses are estimated to cost about $200,000, she said. The city will have a more precise estimate after its enrollment ends in November.

The city also has some room in its health care budget for the additional expense, she said. The city has continued to reduce its health care costs, she said, and this year will spend $2 million less than projected.

Full Story from Savannah Now

Click here for gay marriage resources in Georgia.

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