Intermountain Healthcare employees get benefits for same-sex couples

Posted at 9:31 PM, Dec 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-04 13:01:36-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- One of Utah's largest employers announced sweeping changes to its healthcare program Tuesday.

Intermountain Healthcare will be now provide benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married. It means if you and your same-sex partner are legally married in another state, and one of you is employed by Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, you get the same health care benefits as other married Utah couples.

Equality Utah says it's a step in the right direction but when it comes to LGBT rights, Utah still has a long way to go when it comes to housing and employment.

"Historically Intermountain Healthcare has provided couples who are married in another state and engaged in a marriage that is not recognized in Utah access to domestic partnership benefits, which is a different tier than married benefits," said Brandie Balken, the Executive Director for Equality Utah.

With 23 hospitals scattered throughout Utah and Idaho Intermountain Healthcare employs 32,000 people.

"I think that this is one less obstacle in being able to provide for yourself and your family in making sure that everyone has access in your family to a really important service," Balken said.

Fox 13 asked why the company decided to change its policy. Jason Burgess, a spokesperson for the company, released a statement saying in part "based on recent changes to federal law and ruling by the IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, beginning in 2014, same-sex couples who have been legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage can enroll in Intermountain's employee benefit tiers ..."

Intermountain Healthcare also went on to say providing the same healthcare benefits for LGBT couples have become the norm.

"I think that it's also a step to be on par with a lot of other companies in the state of Utah, including the University of Utah, Zions Bank, ARUP lab, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County -- they all provide the same equitable benefits for their employees regardless of which state they were married in," Balken said.

Equality Utah says while they applaud the company's decision, they still plan on pushing for a state law, which would protect the LGBT from being fired or being denied housing because of their sexual orientation.