Friday, October 31, 2008

Tanya Voss

I can't provide health benefits to my self-employed partner of 19 years. The only time the university has recognized us as a family was when they included her income in calculating our child care costs. I get paid less than my legally married co-workers because every month our family spends hundreds of dollars on her limited health insurance that might have otherwise gone into our sons' college funds. I keep track of the other universities and businesses that support all their faculty and staff and I assure you that our students, alumni, donors, potential and current faculty and staff do, too. This will be increasingly true in years to come.

Professor Tanya Voss
Field Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Austin

John R. Clarke

Domestic partner benefits have been on my mind with particular intensity during the past year. When I received a generous offer from Case Western Reserve that included a substantial salary increase and full domestic partner benefits for Michael Larvey, my partner of 29 years, I was sorely tempted to leave UT. But it was Michael who insisted that I shouldn't disrupt my academic life for his sake. As a self-employed designer, he was paying about $400 per month for health insurance that offered no physician, no prescription plan, and an 80-20 payout after meeting a $5,000 deductible. In fact, when the insurance company raised the premium in October of last year, he decided to go to a 50-50 plan to save $100 per month. In December he fell very ill with atrial fibrillation. He went into congestive heart failure and into the hospital twice: first for a procedure called cardioversion (shocking the atria to try to return the heart to a regular heartbeat) then radio-wave ablation (burning the misfiring sections of heart with radio waves). The second operation (the procedure alone costing $70,000) helped enormously and put him on the mend, but we faced huge medical bills.
Two lessons to this bitter tale: 1) If Michael had been paying for UT-Select, he would have had a primary care physician who could have detected the problem before it got so grave; 2) the salary increase I got in my counteroffer from UT didn't help much when it came to Michael's medical bills; they devastated our finances. I agree with you that UT's refusal to provide domestic partner benefits is grossly unfair. I also realize that UT is at a distinct disadvantage in recruiting and retaining faculty.
Thanks for speaking up on this issue.

John R. Clarke
Annie Laurie Howard Regents Professor
Department of Art & Art History
The University of Texas at Austin