KC holds off on insurance for domestic partners

Sunday, August 24, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City City Council delayed a proposal to provide health insurance benefits to unmarried partners of Kansas City's city employees, saying it wanted to determine the cost of providing the benefits.

The council did introduce ordinances Thursday that would establish a domestic-partner registry and provide sick leave and funeral leave. But the most attractive benefit -- health insurance -- will wait at least until the city completes a budget review and its negotiations with insurance carriers next spring.

"We want to look at it in the context of our overall budget," city manager Wayne Cauthen said. "We need to get more clarity on it."

The council had pledged in April to begin a domestic-partner benefit program by May 1, 2004. The measures to establish the registry and provide sick leave and funeral benefits will be considered in committee next week.

Cauthen said 157 city employees have expressed interest in the proposed benefits. About 60 percent of those expressing interest were heterosexual and 40 percent homosexual, he said.

Cauthen met this week with the city's insurance carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, but said he was not able to get specific enough health-benefit cost information to make an informed decision on the possible cost to the city.

While domestic-partner benefit proposals have sparked intense controversy in some cities, the debate in Kansas City has been subdued. City council members have received letters and e-mails from supporters and critics, and there have been a few small protests outside city hall.

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