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ALBANY, N.Y.--The New York Department of Civil Service is extending health and welfare benefits available under the State Health Insurance Program to same-sex partners of participating employees.
"It's part of Gov. Spitzer's package of legislation and policy changes," said a spokeswoman for the department, which administers the state benefit program that provides coverage to 1.2 million employees, retirees and dependents of state government as well as to employees of 800 public entities including school and fire districts, counties and cities.
Although participating employees can obtain coverage for their same-sex domestic partners, so far the majority of employees that have enrolled in the program have been heterosexual, the spokeswoman said.
It is not yet known how many employees will enroll their same-sex partners, who are eligible if they are legally married in such places as Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, Belgium, South Africa and the Netherlands--jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is not legal in New York state.
The spokeswoman also did not know what the cost would be to the state. New York state covers 90% of individual employees' premiums and 75% of the additional cost for dependents, she said.
Eligible employees have until May 31 to enroll their partners for this year, but they will also be able to add dependents at the next and subsequent open enrollments, or if they experience a change in life status, the spokeswoman said.
In addition to health care coverage, other elective benefit programs will also be made available to the same-sex partners of eligible employees. These include: the New York State Vision Program, Management Confidential Life Insurance Program, New York Public Employee and Retiree Long Term Care Program and the New York State Dental Insurance Program.