A year after a lesbian child-care worker in Wallingford, Wash., tried to get health insurance for her partner, Regence BlueShield is extending coverage to domestic partners working at small businesses, reports the Seattle Times.
With the change, which takes effect January 1, Regence becomes the last major insurer in the Puget Sound region to make coverage for unmarried couples available to businesses regardless of their size.
"We were just delighted," said Pam Xander, a board member with the Wallingford United Methodist Childcare Center. "I know lots of small companies have been lobbying for this."
With just two dozen employees, the Wallingford child-care center didn't have the option of offering Regence health insurance to the partner of a gay employee. That prompted Xander to seek help from Rep. Ed Murray, a Democratic state lawmaker from Seattle who is gay and who has pushed for coverage for domestic partners.
Xander said the center's board considered switching to Premera Blue Cross, which does offer domestic-partner benefits to small companies, before recently learning of Regence's decision.
Chris Bruzzo, spokesman for Regence, said more small businesses are wanting to add domestic partners of employees to their insurance plans. Bruzzo said Regence held off on giving that option to firms with 99 or fewer workers--who account for one third of the private work force in the United States--because of concerns about underwriting risks.