Friday, October 31, 2008

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

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