Friday, July 21, 2006

No Comity -- We Have DOMA

Bill Clinton's biggest legislative appeasement, the Defense of Marriage Act, lives in Canton, Mass. An arbitrator ruled for a Tennessee-based company that denied a legally married nurse the right to put her female spouse on her health plan.

For some unfathomable reason, he decided that the DOMA gave him the right to let Essent Healthcare of Nashville discriminate, in violation of Massachusetts law. For the lack of comity, The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) took the case to federal court today in Boston, seeking reversal. GLAD is joining in the suit.

Read the particulars here. Click on the complaint link to open a .DOC file of it.

Methuen registered nurse Maria Ciulla has been married since last October. She works at Merrimack Valley Hospital. She tried to enroll her spouse in the hospital's health plan, but she was denied.

She filed a grievance, citing the union contract, which forbids sexual discrimination. American Arbitration Association Law Judge Arnold M. Marrow heard the case. According to the MNA:
At the hearings, Martee J. Harris, a corporate vice president for human resources for Essent Healthcare based in Tennessee, testified that she had approached BlueCross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BC/BS), the administrator of Essent's self-insured health plan, to have them change the definition of spouse under the Merrimack Valley Hospital plan to include all legal spouses except the legal spouses of gay and lesbian employees. BC/BS had previously changed the plan's definition of spouse after the Goodridge decision to clarify that the legal spouses of all employees should be eligible for health care coverage regardless of whether they are of the same sex or different sex.
The hospital also said that because the contract did not specify same-sex spouses, it could discriminate, even if the marriage was legal here.

MNA Director of Labor Relations Roland Goff said, "Without telling us they were doing it, and with the authority of officials living and working outside of our state, Essent went out of its way to alter a right granted to our members now depriving them of equal access to health care benefits simply because the affected members are gay men and lesbians. This was a deliberate and unseemly attempt to discriminate against gay and lesbian members of the bargaining unit."

The arbitrator put new meaning to arbitrary in deciding, "I find it necessary to go outside the language of the collective bargaining agreement...to construe the Act [DOMA], as well as the potential impact of other aspects of federal law (ERISA) in order to properly decide the issue before me."

Goff states that this "violated his authority."

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Essent has other worries as well....

Mass Marrier said...

Despite the disclaimer at the top of the above link's blog, the-paris-site does seem to kick Essent around quite a bit and quite hard. The anonymous commenter apparently came out of Mineral Wells, Texas, home to the Paris Regional Medical Center.

The blogger remains anonymous on the site too. Caveat lector.

fac_p said...

Essent, since it is a private corporation, isn't letting much go to the public. However, what has come out indicates that the company is making the easy choices: personnel cuts for quick cuts in expenditures.

As to anonymous, any employee caught posting to the blog is liable for termination.

Just call me Frank....

Anyone mentioning the floor is short-staffed is liable for a 3-5 day suspension.

Anyone logging to the site on a PRMC computer is likewise suspended.

And, the location is Paris, TX. The IP is out of Mineral Wells.

The following has gone international as well as to other Essent hospitals.

There are always caveats.

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