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Expanding same-sex benefits slightly increases costs and coverage, says CBO

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Extending benefits like federal health insurance and retirement survivor benefits to same-sex domestic partners would have only a small impact on the number of individuals covered and the costs of those programs, says the Congressional Budget Office.

In a cost estimate (.pdf) dated Nov. 15 but not posted until Nov. 26, the CBO says S.1910 would extend the full range of benefits to same-sex partners that opposite-sex spouses of federal employees and retirees have. Enacting the bill, says the CBO, would decrease net direct spending by $13 million between 2013 and 2022, and have a discretionary cost of $144 million over the same period.

Some of these costs would come from providing health benefits to Postal Service employee partners, and CBO notes that cash flows of the USPS are classified as "off-budget." It estimates off-budget costs to account for $68 million of that total. For non-USPS employees, extending the Federal Employee Health Benefits to same-sex partners is expected to cost an additional $133 million over 10 years.

However, adding same-sex partners of retires to the FEHB coverage is expected to net a savings of $60 million because projected recoveries would exceed the projected new costs.

CBO says it expects less than 1 percent of federal employees "would choose to register a same-sex domestic partnership if given the opportunity."

Currently, same-sex partners are eligible for some federal employee family benefit programs covering counseling, some travel and relocation payments, the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, and a reduced survivor benefit called an insurable interest annuity.

For more:
- read the CBO cost estimate (.pdf)
- go to the THOMAS page for S. 1910

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