FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2005
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SECURES COMMITMENTS FROM FOUR LEADING HEALTH INSURERS TO MAKE DOMESTIC PARTNER COVERAGE WIDELY AVAILABLE IN NEW YORK CITY
Signs Executive Order 72 to Facilitate Health Care Coverage on an Equal Basis to the Spouses and Domestic Partners of Employees of City Vendors and Other Businesses
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced today that he has obtained commitments from four major health insurance companies - Group Health Incorporated (GHI), Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, HIP Health Plans of New York, and Horizon Healthcare Insurance Company of New York - to make domestic partner insurance available to New York City businesses with between 2 and 50 employees, which make up approximately 74% of the City's vendors. Previously, these small businesses have been unable to obtain domestic partner coverage for their employees because no insurance product existed in the private market. Businesses with more than 50 employees were already able to obtain domestic partner coverage. To facilitate vendors and other businesses citywide to take advantage of this newly-created market, the Mayor today also signed Executive Order 72, which requires certain City vendors to report whether they offer health care coverage to their employees and, if so, whether coverage is offered on an equal basis to the spouses and domestic partners of those employees. The information collected will be made available to the public.
"By working collaboratively with the private sector to open up the market, we simultaneously eliminated a major obstacle to this coverage and achieved the worthy goals of more accessible and affordable health care for the domestic partners of employees of City vendors and other businesses," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The City's success in obtaining the support of insurers to open the small group market means that all New York City businesses, including City vendors of which approximately 74% have 50 or fewer employees, now have unprecedented access to health coverage for the domestic partners of their employees."
Executive Order 72 requires vendors, with certain construction, services or goods contracts over $100,000 to report to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services (MOCS) whether they offer health care coverage to their employees and, if so, whether coverage is offered on an equal basis to the spouses and domestic partners of those employees. The Mayor's Office of Health Insurance Access (MOHIA) will send targeted information to City vendors to explain the benefits and importance of making such coverage available and where it can be obtained.
Similar information will be made available to other businesses in the City, regardless of whether they are a vendor, through the Business Solution Centers and other business assistance programs of the Department of Small Business Services. MOHIA will continue to work to expand the New York City insurance market for domestic partner coverage and publicly report new developments. MOHIA also will make data on individual vendor employee health insurance practices publicly available.
"Today, our community has won an important victory," said Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. "The Mayor used his leadership in the corporate community to change the status quo in a healthcare marketplace that has long ignored the needs of people in domestic partner relationships. The Empire State Pride Agenda thanks him!"
"The extension of coverage to domestic partners is in keeping with GHI's longstanding commitment to the City, as well as our mission of expanding access to high quality health care coverage to all New Yorkers," said GHI CEO Frank Branchini. "We are pleased to be part of this historic initiative."
"For a number of years, the large group market has had this benefit available for its employees," said Michael A. Stocker, President and CEO of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. "It is the right thing to do to extend the benefit to small groups."
"This is yet another example of HIP demonstrating its commitment to all the communities of New York by making quality healthcare available to as many New Yorkers as possible at a reasonable price," said HIP Chairman and CEO Anthony Watson.
"Horizon Healthcare is committed to working with all parties to increase access to health care in the New York City region and this is one way of doing so," said Horizon President and CEO Dr. Minalkumar Patel.
"This tremendous step will result in tens of thousands of gay New Yorkers having access to affordable healthcare. We congratulate Mayor Bloomberg and the Empire State Pride Agenda for this long sought breakthrough," said Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The City of New York offers health insurance coverage to the domestic partners of its employees and retirees. In addition, the City has sponsored the Central Insurance Program (CIP) through the Mayor's Office of Operations for many years. CIP provides access to health insurance coverage, including domestic partner coverage, to certain of the City's not-for-profit vendors. As a result of Executive Order 72, CIP will now provide another avenue for not-for-profit vendors to access domestic partner coverage.
Further, all businesses purchasing insurance through HealthPass, the health purchasing alliance of the City of New York and the New York Business Group on Health which offers small businesses choice, flexibility, and administrative simplicity, also will now be able to access domestic partner benefits for their employees. GHI, HIP, and Horizon are all participating carriers in HealthPass.
"This is another example of the incredible outcomes resulting from the collaboration between the Bloomberg Administration and the Human Services Council," said Alan B. Siskind, Human Services Council Board Chair. "Having access to the City's Central Insurance Program will benefit not-for-profit providers throughout the City who have been struggling to provide health coverage to its workforce. The human service community thanks the administration for this important policy change and looks forward to future progress."
The regulations governing the employee benefits offered by vendors, and the insurance industry in general, are established by the state and federal governments, rather than the City. In 2004, the City Council passed the Equal Benefits Bill which mandated that City vendors, with contracts over $100,000, who offer employee health benefits also offer domestic partner coverage. Although the Mayor agreed with the intentions of the bill, he vetoed it due to the Law Department's determination that it violated State procurement laws and the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Executive Order 72 accomplishes these worthy goals without illegal mandates.
"Today's actions to open the small group insurance market, and Executive Order 72, facilitate the access that City vendors and other businesses have to domestic partner coverage in a legal manner promoting a goal our Administration shares with the City Council to achieve greater and affordable insurance coverage for those with domestic partners. I want to thank the Empire State Pride Agenda for their leadership in working with the Administration to develop a solid strategy that we were able to deliver on to ensure that affordable health care coverage is now accessible throughout the community. I also want to thank Special Counsel to the Mayor Anthony Crowell for coordinating this initiative with MOHIA Executive Director Marjorie Cadogan, Deputy Director Christel Brellochs and Program Analyst Andrea Bachrach, as well as MOCS Director Marla Simpson, Assistant Corporation Counsel William Heinzen, and CIP Director Jim Harper," concluded Mayor Bloomberg.
Edward Skyler / Jonathan Werbell (212) 788-2958