Health Insurance

With this subject, you probably know where this post is going: in short, our lives were made extra difficult and expensive because we’re a gay couple.  I’ll start with the good news.  My job extends benefits to employee’s same-sex partners, so after submitting an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership I could add H to my health plan the same as I would if she were my husband.  Not all employers do that, and before either of us applies for a job we make sure that this benefit is offered.  Now for bad news.  Although it seems like we’re being treated equally (except for the whole Affidavit thing), it actually cost about twice as much to add my wife than it would have cost to add my husband.

I’ll start from the beginning.  H and I each receive health insurance (and pay a portion of the premium) from our respective employers.  H switched jobs last fall, resulting in a one-month gap where she didn’t get health insurance from her employer.  Luckily I could add her to my insurance plan for $128.81 per month.  I filled out the form, attached proof that she was no longer covered by her old insurer, and she was added to my plan.  The HR representative warned me that because we are a same-sex couple, we would have to pay taxes on her premium.  I thought this meant that while my premium contribution is deducted before tax (and, by extension, if she were a husband instead of a wife her portion would be as well), her portion would be deducted after tax.  An annoying difference but it couldn’t add up to much, right? Wrong.  Not being a tax expert, I misunderstood the implications of adding H to my plan.  While the employee contribution to H’s premium was $128.81, the employer contribution is $325.82.  Instead of a pre-tax/post-tax issue, this was an issue of my taxable gross income.  That is, I had to pay taxes on the employer contribution.

This is where the story gets a bit nonsensical.  Somehow, I don’t really understand it, but that extra $325.82 in taxable income resulted in a $119.91 jump in the federal and state taxes that were deducted from my paycheck.  In a heated (and embarrassing – I started crying) exchange with an HR representative, I tried to get an explanation for how it was possible that my taxes could go up that much.  It wasn’t just rise in absolute value, the percentage taken out was more too.  The only explanation she came up with was that perhaps I jumped into a new tax bracket.  Anyway, I’m not sure how it works out, but the bottom line is that it cost a lot more money than I thought it was.

The story got a bit better when I talked to someone higher up in HR who acknowledged the problem.  I told her that while I appreciate the company’s attempt to treat same-sex partners the same as opposite-sex partners, from my experience by not dealing with the tax implications they were not actually doing so.  The ultimate responsibility lies in the state and federal governments that do not recognize our relationship and therefore do not afford us the same tax benefits as they do married straight couples.  But failing that, someone needs to make up the difference in taxes and in this case, as it often is, that person was the private citizen – me.

Cost:

  • Health Insurance Premium for Partner (employee contribution), 1 month: $128.81
  • Extra Taxes Deducted from My Paycheck, 1 month: $119.91
  • Total time: Does the hour or so on the phone, plus the 2 hours it took me to settle down count?

Cost if we were straight: $128.81

P.S.  To end on a happy note, today is the 4 year anniversary of when H and I first met!

One comment on “Health Insurance

  1. Hannah Seward says:

    The financial costs you have to endure for something those of us straight individuals are privileged without effort is purely unjust. Thank you for sharing your experiences. While I wish I could change them immediately for you and all other same sex couples, and I feel so terrible you have to go through this discrimination, my hope is that your stories will enlighten those who are unaware, and inspire everyone to speak up and fight for equality! Thank you for being you, and sharing your journey.

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