U of L Pres. James Ramsey told a House committee his university does not subsidize domestic partner benefits. Why is he telling state lawmakers one thing, and his employees something completely different?
In the debate over domestic partner benefits at Kentucky’s public universities, one alleged fact has been hammered home by proponents again and again: that no taxpayer money was being used by the University of Louisville to subsidize the benefits. Legislators have relied on this fact in arguing for it, and U of L’s own Board of Trustees relied on it in making their decision to approve the university’s plan. But new information is calling into question whether the university is being truthful in its statements to state lawmakers and the public.
During House Health and Welfare Committee testimony on March 6, University of Louisville President James Ramsey testified that his university did not subsidize its employee health insurance plans of domestic partners. U of L officials have maintained since last year, when it instituted its domestic partner benefit plan, that no taxpayer or tuition money was involved in their decision, since the cost of their health benefits was borne solely by employees.
That testimony was the chief point of controversy for many of the committee members. Representative Bob Damron (D-Nicholasville) tried to clarify the matter during Ramsey’s testimony:
Damron: You mentioned that there is no cost to the university. Is your health insurance plan structured such that the dependents, spouses, children and so on that are added to your plan are purely a pay as you go basis or is there any subsidy? Most state plans have a subsidy that helps to pay part of the family plan or at least a piece of it or buys the cost of participating in a family plan. Are you stating that the University of Louisville pays for the single policy but they don't subsidize in any shape form or fashion adding additional people to the plan?Damron continued to press the issue, and pointed out that he didn’t think the numbers added up. Again Ramsey affirmed that U of L did not subsidize their plan:
Ramsey: As I indicated to you I pay for my dependents health insurance
Damron: That's not the question. The question is are you partially subsidizing the cost of a family plan? The state of Kentucky partially subsidized the cost of the family plan. Is the University of Louisville not partially subsidizing the cost of their family plan?
Ramsey: No. Are you talking about on an actuarial basis?
Damron: On an actuarial basis.
Ramsey: The actuaries told us no we are not.
Damron: I guess in my own mind, I’m having a hard time figuring out how you could do that at half the cost of what the state employee’s were paying for their family plan.A few minutes later, Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville) brought up the matter again, just to make sure:
Ramsey: Do you want us to follow the state plan? [laughing]
Damron: No, I want to make sure that before you make a statement, before a committee of the General Assembly, that you are accurate in what you say.
Ramsey: Bob, you’ve known me for a long time, and I’ve always been honest with the General Assembly.
Damron: I’m not saying you’re not honest. I’m just saying I think you need to look at that issue before you make statements like that.
Ramsey: What I’m telling you is what I’m telling you.
Owens: That does not change the fact of your testimony which is that the university does not subsidize. Is that correct?Maybe I'm mistaken, but I think Ramsey is saying that Uof L doesn't subsidize its benefits. But there's one little problem: the health care section of U of L’s own website indicates exactly the opposite.
Not only does it say they are subsidizing family benefits, but the new part of the site dealing with domestic partner benefits says quite clearly that the university is subsidizing benefits for domestic partners. According to the website page dealing with domestic partners:
Whether or not your domestic partner qualifies as a tax dependent,” says the site, “makes a difference in how taxes will be deducted from your paycheck for benefits. IRS does not allow pre-tax treatment for any dependents that don't qualify as your tax dependent. Therefore, if that's the case, you will be taxed on the money you spend through payroll deduction as well as the money U of L spends for your domestic partner and his/her children.” [Italics added]In the same section, it goes on to say that the university pays the same amount for an employee and domestic partner as with an employee and spouse.
You will see that the university contributes the same amount in both situations, but the differences in the tax treatment will make a difference in your net take-home pay.” [Italics added]Now I could be mistaken again, but this seems to say that the University of Louisville is subsidizing the benefits.
The site goes on to show an example of the employee’s paycheck with the benefit for the domestic partner under the label “Employer Paid Benefit.”
In other words, the university’s own website would appear to directly contradict President Ramsey’s unequivocal testimony before the committee. If U of L is not subsidizing the benefit, then how can employees report to the IRS that it is?
It is beginning to look like President Ramsey owes state lawmakers—and his own Board of Trustees—an explanation of why he is telling them one thing while his university is telling its employees something completely different.