Murray considers whether to expand health insurance to domestic partners

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 April 2021 at 12:36 pm

MURRAY – The Town Board is discussing whether it should expand health insurance eligibility to the domestic partners of town employees, and the children of those partners.

Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio said Murray would be the first municipality in Orleans County to offer that coverage. He said it could be a significant cost increase for Murray taxpayers.

The current cost for a single health care plan is $539.06 a month ($6,468.72 a year) for a single plan, $1,078.12 per month ($12,937.44 per year) for a two-person plan and $1,536.32 per month ($18,435.84 a year) for a family plan. Town employees pay 15 percent of the costs.

Sidonio said four employees could be eligible for two-person or family plans if the town approves the expanded eligibility.

There is currently one employee with domestic partner coverage, but town officials declined to comment on how that happened during Monday’s Town Board meeting. John Sansone, the town attorney, advised the board to not discuss specific personnel matters in public.

Sidonio urged the Town Board to thoroughly go over its policy for health insurance coverage for town employees.

“I don’t want to do a sloppy job on a complicated subject,” he said.

Sansone said the town would need to determine what qualifies someone as a domestic partner, whether it’s financial support and living together, and what documentation would be needed. He suggested an affidavit from the parties testifying to the relationship.

If the town approves the policy and an employee has a domestic partner and dependents on the health insurance policy, the employee should be aware there will be a taxable liability for the expanded insurance which could result in smaller take-home pay.

Sidonio was faulted by Town Board member Paul Hendel for a recent Facebook post, where Sidonio called out the other four board members as “No Show Board” for not attending a work session on April 8 to discuss a domestic partner health insurance policy.

Sidonio’s Facebook post resulted in many comments from residents critical of the other board members.

“I don’t think that moves the agenda of positive, collaborative working relationship with you, Joe,” Hendel said about the social media post and its response.

Hendel said the Town Board members all have near perfect attendance for the regular monthly meetings and they do other work for the town outside of the meetings.

“Social media is a platform for uninformed people to bully others,” Hendel said.

Hendel didn’t attend the work session because Sansone wasn’t going to be there and there wasn’t a draft policy yet to discuss. Sansone doesn’t attend the work sessions as a cost-saving measure from Sidonio, Hendel said.

Sidonio said he doesn’t control peoples’ comments on social media. He also wrote a letter to editor on the Orleans Hub.

Hendel said he didn’t see the letter, but he wouldn’t write a letter about Sidonio if he was trying to build a good working relationship.

The board tabled the discussion until the May 17 board meeting. It will continue to research the issue. Samson, the town attorney, also was encouraged to attend any work sessions about the issue.