In Nebraska, hospitals are beginning to offer health insurance benefits to all couples equally regardless of their gender. These hospitals include Alegent Creighton Health/Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) of Nebraska, the Methodist Health system and the Omaha VA Medical Center starting in January of 2014. The Alegent Creighton Health CHI network has 16 hospitals and two inpatient behavioral health centers in Nebraska and Iowa, and they have over 15,000 employees. The Methodist system has two hospitals in Nebraska and one in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and has over 3,000 employees. The VA Medical Center has over 1,000 employees.
Alegent Creighton/CHI said,
“Because access to decent and affordable health care is a basic human right.” “CHI reviewed the IRS definition of individuals eligible to be claimed as a dependent on a federal tax return and used that definition as the basis for a new dependent classification, an adult dependent, to be eligible for CHI medical, dental and vision plans.”
Under this new definition, CHI will cover same-sex spouses. CHI said that the coverage is, “consistent with our mission and core values – it increases access to affordable health care for our employees’ families.”
“Our benefit plans look to a number of federal statutes for plan administration and definitions.” In addition, said, “We decided to continue to follow the federal law, and that allowed for same-sex benefits.”
The VA Medical Center must follow the rules put forth by the federal Office of Personnel Management. Cheri DeWispelare, chief of human resources for the VA Nebraska Western Iowa Health Care System said,
“Whether they’re same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples, the rules are the same for them.”
Unfortunately, some hospitals in Nebraska will not be treating all couples equally. The Nebraska Medical Center and Bryan Health both said they don’t offer health coverage benefits for same-sex couples. (Omaha.com)
In addition, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska will begin offering health coverage for same-sex couples in 2014. A representative for the insurance company said that,
“It’s a Department of Labor policy we’re following.”
Blue Cross is the insurance carrier for 246 Nebraska school districts and their plan includes more than 70,000 education employees, early retirees and dependents. Most districts in Nebraska are covered through Blue Cross except Millard, Wayne and York. Millard’s director of administrative affairs claims that he wasn’t aware of officials in his district considering coverage for same-sex spouses. This would fall in line with Millard’s history of being anti-LGBTQIA. (Omaha.com)
Even more regretful, the City of Papillion won’t follow Blue Cross Blue Shield’s policy that grants benefits to same-sex couples claiming that the Nebraska Constitution prevents them. However, other cities in Sarpy County, Bellevue and La Vista will accept Blue Cross Blue Shield’s policy. (Omaha.com)
Then of course, Nebraska still has Mayor Jean Stothert (Republican) of Omaha who refuses to provide health care benefits to the city’s employees’ same-sex spouses. Mayor Stothert claims that the city’s law department determined that she must discriminate against certain couples, while Douglas County will offer those benefits. (Forward Equality)
*Reminder Mayor Stothert campaigned on repealing Omaha’s nondiscrimination ordinance that bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. She opposes equal rights for LGBTQIA people and their families. She has constantly voted against equality for LGBTQIA students and adults while on the Millard Public Schools Board and as a Omaha City Council person.
Currently, there are 18 states and the District of Columbia that provides equal marriage rights. Those states include Massachusetts (2004), California (2008 [repealed by prop-8][prop-8 struck down] 2013), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2009), New York (2011), Washington (2012), Maryland (2012), Maine (2012), Rhode Island (2013), Delaware (2013), Minnesota (2013), New Jersey (2013), Illinois (2013), Hawaii (2013), New Mexico (2013), and Utah (2013).
In addition, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) granting same-sex marriages federal recognition. However, Nebraska is one of those states that refuse to treat all couples equal, but two State Senators, Sen. Chambers and Sen. Ashford are attempting to fix that.
Last month, Judiciary Chairperson Sen. Brad Ashford held a hearing at the Nebraska State Legislature to discuss the effects of the SCOTUS ruling on Sec. 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional on Nebraska law. Sen. Ashford wishes to put the issue of same-sex union recognition to a vote of the people to remove the harmful amendment to the Nebraska constitution that outlaws equal marriage, civil union, and domestic partnerships. He feels that the state should give some sort of recognition to same-sex unions like civil unions. He believes that the Nebraska voters should decide this issue for themselves before the courts forces a decision on them. (nebraskaraidonetwork)
On the other hand, Sen. Ernie Chambers at the hearing, called the federal DOMA the
“worst, nuttiest, lame-brainest, discriminatory act ever enacted by a nutty, lame-brained collection of people known as the Congress.”
He also indicated that he plans to introduce legislation in the next session to bring equal marriage to Nebraska and repeal Nebraska’s harmful amendment known as the Super DOMA.
Forward Equality agrees with Sen. Chambers and Sen. Ashford that the Nebraska amendment banning equal marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships is harmful and must be repealed. Nonetheless, Forward Equality does not support Sen. Ashford in wanting civil unions. Forward Equality stands with Sen. Chambers in calling for equal marriage for all Nebraskans and call on Nebraska supporters to work with both of the Senators to repeal the amendment. (Sen. Chambers & Sen. Ashford: Repeal Nebraska’s SuperDOMA)