Access to Health Care Benefits for Gay Partners Is Gauged

WASHINGTON — In the first comprehensive count of domestic partner benefits by a federal government agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about one-third of all workers had access to health care benefits for same-sex partners.

Bureau officials added two questions about domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples to the National Compensation Survey, a sample of 17,000 businesses and local governments, as a response to growing public interest in the topic, said Philip Doyle, assistant commissioner at the agency. The results were made public on Tuesday.

Thirty-three percent of state and local government employees had access to domestic partner health benefits for same-sex couples, the survey found, slightly higher than the 29 percent of employees in private companies.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the data collection “reflects contemporary reality of what constitutes a compensation package.” It will also allow researchers to track whether laws on same-sex marriage affect the availability of domestic partner benefits.

Access to the benefits varied depending on the type of job. Business and financial managers, for example, had some of the highest rates of access to such benefits at 52 percent, compared with 17 percent for workers in the service industry. That is partly because service industry workers tend to have less access to health care than financial managers.

In all, 42 percent of service workers have access to health care. Of those, about a third had access to domestic partner health benefits, the survey found.

The regions with the greatest access for people working for private employers were the Pacific region, the Mountain region (which included Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming) and New England. Those with the lowest were the South and the West North Central (which included Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota).

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