Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, November 14, 2011

U-M letter to state senators outlines importance of domestic partner benefits

Top university officials have detailed the importance of providing medical benefits for all members of the university community in a letter asking state senators to oppose legislation that would prohibit public employers from providing benefits to domestic partners.

The legislation (HB 4770-71) has been approved by the state House where it was sponsored by Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville.

More online

Read the entire letter here.

“There is no evidence (the ban) will reduce health care costs, and it most certainly will make us less competitive,” wrote President Mary Sue Coleman and Provost Phil Hanlon. Their letter was sent Nov. 8 to Michigan’s 38 state senators.

“The University of Michigan must be able to offer an excellent benefit package to our employees and to those we hope to recruit to U-M for their unique talents, skills and expertise,” the letter continues. “The environment for such talent is extraordinarily competitive, and our ability to attract and retain top faculty and staff is a significant asset for the state of Michigan. The loss of our ability to offer such benefits would put the university, and our state, at a serious disadvantage compared to peers.

“Fortune 500 companies nationwide and in the state of Michigan offer partner benefits: It is simply good business that produces an excellent return on investment.”

The letter points out that many of Michigan’s most well-known and respected corporations — including Dow Chemical Co., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Whirlpool Corp. — all provide domestic partner benefits benefits.

The letter corrects some misperceptions about the cost of the benefits, which are shared by the university and the employee.

“This year, 570 qualified adults receive domestic partner benefits, and 48 dependent children. The annual cost to the university for this coverage is approximately $3,072 per person. This represents a $1.9 million share of our total $302 million health benefit cost. The investment of less than 0.7 percent of the total helps us recruit and keep top talent in Michigan.

“Since these positions need to be filled, the university would not realize a net reduction in health care costs.”

The letter also spells out the consequences of being prohibited from offering such benefits.

“In the absence of benefits that are widely offered elsewhere, employees currently responsible for providing health coverage for their families may well leave, and other top candidates will choose not to come.”

The letter from Coleman and Hanlon says U-M and other state universities have put an “enormous effort” into economic development for the state, creating campuses that have become magnets for talent, entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation.

“We are engines for the education of a highly skilled workforce to propel this state forward. We need all the talent possible to achieve those goals.”