Savannah approves domestic partner benefits

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- With a unanimous vote Thursday, the Savannah City Council agreed to extend domestic partner benefits to city employees.

The approval means that when the city begins its annual health insurance enrollment in November, any of its estimated 2,500 employees who are in domestic partner relationships will be able to sign up companions for benefits.

Beth Robinson, the city's director of human resources, said research from other cities, including Atlanta and Athens, shows the cost of coverage increased by only about 1 percent. Savannah last year spent $20 million on prescription drugs and other medical costs for workers, which means domestic partner expenses are estimated to cost about $200,000, she said. The city will have a more precise estimate after its enrollment ends in November.

The city also has some room in its health care budget for the additional expense, she said. The city has continued to reduce its health care costs, she said, and this year will spend $2 million less than projected.

Jean Levens was the only Savannah citizen to speak against the initiative, and her comments were countered quickly by Mayor Pro Tem Edna Jackson, alderman Tony Thomas, Van Johnson, Clifton Jones and Mary Osborne.

Mayor Otis Johnson and Alderman Jeff Felser, who could not attend the meeting, both submitted letters of support that were read into the minutes.

Levens said she didn't believe the council needed to set such policy.

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