Thursday, June 4, 2009

Benefits for Arizona state employees and their families are under attack!

From Equality Arizona-

Act NOW to protect State Employee benefits!

Last night, in the middle of the night, the Senate passed SB 1145. Among other things this bill changes the definition of the word “dependant [paragraph 63]” to specifically target for removal the domestic partner benefits that were afforded to state employees only last year.

“At a time in our state’s history of unprecedented financial crisis and job loss and when the majority of Americans believe healthcare is one of our foremost issues, removing access to health care for Arizona families is a tragedy,” said Barbara McCullough-Jones, Executive Director of Equality Arizona. She continued, “Arizona took a giant step forward last year recognizing the universal desire of Arizonans to be responsible for our families with the adoption of domestic partner benefits for state employees. News from the Arizona Senate today that they have voted to remove domestic partner benefits is a crushing blow to the survival of all families in Arizona.”

One year ago through an administrative rule change the definition of “dependent” was written to include domestic partners and their dependents. It also extended coverage to dependents under 23 if they are a full time student. For the first time, both heterosexual and same-sex couples became eligible for equal employment benefits. One year ago ALL employees of the State of Arizona were allowed to provide healthcare for their families.

Those benefits are in jeopardy TODAY. Right now, the house is in Caucus, this afternoon they will decide if the budget changes approved last night will be sent to Governor Brewer’s desk for signature. Call your Representative and Governor Brewer RIGHT NOW, and let them know it is unfair to strip access to healthcare away from Arizona families.

The Senate cites removing coverage for the approximate 750 employees signed up for domestic partner benefits would save the state $3 million dollars of the more than $650 million it spends annually on health care benefits for state employees. McCullough-Jones stated, “targeting this line item, which amounts to less than 5% of the state’s health care budget, is not about fixing the budget - it’s about moving a political agenda. Arizona’s families, children and our health care system have been caught in the incompetent leadership at the Senate.” “If the Senate wanted a 5% cut in health care benefits then they should have made it universal across the entire system and the effects should have been felt by all employees not just those being singled out because of their marital status.”

The cost of stripping these benefits is tremendous. Not only by creating a burden to the already strained State healthcare system by giving the families of certain employees no option except becoming dependant on the state for their healthcare coverage, which could cost AHCCS more than 5 million dollars, or could transfer this cost to hospitals and other providers in the form of uncompensated care for uninsured people. (based on information from AZHHA)

You MUST tell your Representative and Governor this is not acceptable. If you are a state employee, or know a state employee we urge you to call and tell your Representative and Governor YOUR story. They need to hear how this affects the lives of state workers in Arizona. If you are not a state worker, call anyway! We must all stand together to protect all families in Arizona.

Equality Arizona will be at the Capitol today watching proceedings and asking tough questions of the legislators. We will be releasing updates via twitter, so follow us and stay up to the minute with the most current information. You can follow us at:

Call the Governor’s office: 602-542-4331

Call the House of Representatives general number: (602) 926-4221 ask to be transferred to your Representative.

No comments: