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S.C. medical provider opens up to domestic partners
Blue Cross and Blue Shield will start benefits Jan. 1

by Matt Comer . Q-Notes staff
COLUMBIA — In a state which voted in 2006 to ban all legal recognition of same-sex relationships, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina (BCBSSC) has confirmed to Q-Notes that previous community and “blogosphere” rumors saying they will begin offering health insurance to the domestic partners of their employees are correct and will begin in the coming weeks, effective Jan. 1, 2008.

BCBSSC’s decision follows a national trend of companies offering domestic partner health care benefits to both same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples. Over half the Fortune 500 companies across the nation currently offer domestic partner benefits in some shape or form.

Q-Notes first noticed rumors of the domestic partner benefit offerings on a blog run by Matt Butler of Columbia. In his blog, Butler related whispered discussions he had heard regarding BCBSSC’s decision. Two days later, Butler posted an image of a facsimile copy of BCBSSC’s health plan changes announcement.

“Our lawmakers dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ to where we don’t even recognize common law marriages between a heterosexual couple,” Butler said. “In a way, the actions of [Blue Cross and Blue Shield] — even though probably not intentional — are like an apology to the LGBT community of South Carolina and its gay families.”

Elizabeth Hammond of BCBSSC told Q-Notes, “In keeping with the national trend, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina will be opening our own employee health care plans to domestic partners.”

The health plan changes announcement posted by Butler also indicated that those receiving domestic partner benefits will carry a tax penalty from the IRS.

“Currently, the Internal Revenue Code treats spouses and children through marriage differently than domestic partners in respect to health benefits. The cost of coverage is not automatically exempt from taxes,” the announcement read.

BCBSSC employees are instructed to contact their local human resources representative for more information if they wish to cover a domestic partner.

With almost 9,000 individuals employed within South Carolina, BCBSSC is one of the state’s largest employers.

BCBSSC is headquartered in Columbia, with offices in Camden, Florence, Surfside Beach, Charleston and Greenville, S.C. The company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The state government does not offer similar benefits to employees because any recognition of same-sex relationships is prohibited by the state’s constitution.

info: Matt Butler contributed to this story. Read his blog at www.leonardosnotebook.blogspot.com.

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