University of Arkansas, on account of Supreme Court stay, pulls back from insurance coverage for same-sex couples | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

University of Arkansas, on account of Supreme Court stay, pulls back from insurance coverage for same-sex couples

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Easy come, easy go. The University of Arkansas, which announced May 12 that it would in the future provide insurance benefits to spouses of same-sex married UA employees, has now made it clear that policy can't take effect on account of the Arkansas Supreme Court's stay of Judge Chris Piazza's May 9 marriage equality ruling.

A memorandum from UA System General Counsel Fred Harrison noted that the original memo said the policy would take effect unless a stay was granted.

Harrison's memo, dated today, said the situation is the same for all UA employees, whether married before Piazza's ruling or in the few days it was in effect until the stay last Friday.

"Otherwise, both tthe University and individuals concerned would run the risk of entering into legal relationships about important matters such as health care which later might be overturned. Also, this affords same-sex partners of University employees relying on Judge Piazza's opinion and final order and my memorandum of May 12 to obtain insurance coverage ogther than under the University's medical benefit plan. Any premiums which may have been, or will be, deducted for employees enrolling should be refunded. I also note that under University's plan no coverage would begin until June 1, 2014 and current coverage is not affected.

This is a particular problem for people who just registered for benefits. The UAMS Human Resources office, in telling them of the UA memo, said:

I am sending this via blind copy to our employees who recently added their same-sex spouses to insurance or made a new flexible spending account election.

Today the University of Arkansas System Office announced that same-sex spouses cannot be added to benefits at this time. Click here for the announcement just posted on our intranet site. It includes the letter from the UA System Office explaining this decision.

I regret that this action was taken, but can understand why it was made. Until this court case is over, the legality of your marriage in Arkansas — whether that marriage occurred here or in another state — is uncertain. We want to make sure the benefit elections you make will ‘stick’ and that your family will be assured of coverage.

I am going to hold your benefit forms until June 20, in the hopes that this case is resolved by then and we can proceed with your benefit changes. But if that doesn’t occur, let me know if you want the forms back or if it’s okay for me to shred them. Then once this is resolved and the University gives the thumbs up, please be sure to visit our office again to complete new forms.

Thank you for your patience!

Please note the advice that a person legally married in another state may not be viewed as such in Arkansas. This is the part of the Arkansas marriage prohibition that simply cannot withstand court challenge.

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