In a message to employees this week, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) — the region’s second largest employer — announced that it will begin offering health benefits to the same-sex partners of employees starting Jan. 1. The announcement comes three years after the Pennsylvania Diversity Network (PDN) began lobbying for the cause, a movement that only intensified this fall when marriage became legal in New Jersey, where, in Phillipsburg, SLUHN runs a hospital.
PDN Executive Director Liz Bradbury remarks on the big-deal news in The Express Times:
St. Luke's is the second largest employer in this area of Pennsylvania, just behind Lehigh Valley Health Network, which already extends such benefits ... Now all five of the largest Lehigh Valley employers grant equal benefits. St. Luke's is not only doing the fair and equal thing, but is now in a better position to encourage and retain the best employees in their system.
This is about more than just health insurance. It means legally married gay and lesbian employees will have family medical leave to care for a loved one and couples won't have to pay federal taxes on the benefits. Unmarried domestic partners will have to pay tax on the benefits as if it is income.
According to the article, Saint Luke's coverage will be available to same-sex couples who are legally married in another state, same-sex domestic partners who have been together a year and are financially dependent on each other, and children of the same-sex spouse or partner.
Nice move, St. Luke's!