St. Luke’s to extend benefits to same-sex couples

St. Luke’s to extend benefits to same-sex couples

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After almost three years of being pressured to provide domestic-partner benefits for employees, St. Luke’s Health Network announced this week its plan to implement such a policy. In a memo sent to employees this week, the Bethlehem-based St. Luke’s, the second-largest health-care provider in the state, said it will amend its health-care policies starting Jan. 1. Same-sex partners of employees who were legally married in other states will be eligible, as will non-married same-sex couples who have been together for at least one year and who are financially interdependent. The policy will also extend to children of same-sex couples. On Oct. 24, Pennsylvania Diversity Network delivered more than 1,200 letters from local LGBTs and allies to St. Luke’s president and CEO Richard A. Anderson and to the organization’s board of trustees, urging them to adopt spousal benefits for LGBT employees. In 2011, St. Luke’s adopted a nondiscrimination policy in its benefits plan that included sexual orientation but the organization went on to say state law, which bans same-sex marriage, prevented it from extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples. This week’s message said the decision was made “in an effort to be more inclusive of the diverse nature of our employment population.” St. Luke’s spokesperson Denise Rader told PGN the decision had long been under discussion. “We’ve been looking at reviewing this for some time,” Rader said. PDN executive director Liz Bradbury said she was pleased with the policy reversal. “It is unfair to deny gay and lesbian employees who are legally married these equal benefits, and recognizing that is the right thing for St. Luke’s to do,” Bradbury said. “Now all five of the largest local employers grant equal benefits. St. Luke’s is not only doing the fair and equal thing, but is now in a better position to encourage and retain the best employees in their system.” St. Luke’s employees will be able to enroll same-sex partners from Dec. 9-20.

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