CIVILesbianIZATION :: Opportunity Costs and Health Benefits
My wife has become enamored with public service. Perhaps it is the election of Barack Obama or the allure of the Victory Fund advertising for openly gay and lesbian people to serve in the new administration. For the past twenty years, she’s been happily serving her country as an attorney to some of America’s top corporations. Now she wants to use her skills to benefit the public good. She has a lot to offer, especially at this historical moment: she’s an attorney with expertise in consumer finance and sub-prime mortgage lending.
I don’t want her to work for the federal government, though. The cost to us of losing my health insurance is too great.
Deciding to be on her health insurance was a big step. I didn’t like the notion of being considered a dependent. I’ve worked my entire adult life. I like the idea of providing for myself and am invested in at least the appearance of autonomy in spite of our long-term relationship. When I headed back to graduate school, though, the opportunity to have health insurance through my beloved’s job was too good to pass up.
The process was simple. She filled out forms online and immediately there I was, the co-insured. It’s one of the few official monikers I’ve had in relationship to her. In addition to just having health insurance, I quickly discovered the benefits of insurance through a large company as opposed to a non-profit organization, where I spent most of my career. Health care plans are not created equally. Large corporations have better policies, with more choices and more coverage.
We were lucky that she worked for a company that offers domestic partner benefits. While I had always talked about inequalities between gay and lesbian workers and heterosexual workers, I didn’t realize the enormity of those inequalities until we took advantage of the health insurance. It’s a lot of money, and now, getting older and looking at more serious health concerns, having a solid health care plan is an extraordinary comfort.
Of course, as soon as I discover the many advantages of domestic partner health care benefits, my beloved hears the call to service. She’s been prowling for federal jobs that fit her experience and expertise, and, between networking contacts, she talks to me about the sacrifices we’ll have to make for her to be a federal employee. I want her to have this opportunity, and I want the federal government to have the benefit of her skills and experience, but not until gay and lesbian workers are treated equally by the federal government.
Yes, I could procure health insurance through a different channel for the next four years while I am in graduate school, but why should I? Family benefits are designed to support and make life better for American families; we’re an American family. The ability to have health care benefits through my partner’s work is an important component of the economic viability of going back to graduate school.
Certainly, I would prefer universal, single-payer health care available individually to each person living in the United States like models in Australia or the United Kingdom. This would eliminate the need for managing health care during job transitions, educational breaks, or other changing life conditions. Until we have universal, single-payer health insurance, however, gay and lesbian employees - in the federal government and everywhere - and their spouses should have access to the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.
I hope this happens soon. I want my wife to have the choice to serve- and if she does, I want her, and our family, to be compensated fairly.