Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Reciprocal beneficiaries
law report says
impact minimal

By Mike Yuen


The state's 2-year-old reciprocal beneficiaries law, which granted homosexual couples some marriage benefits, has had an insignificant fiscal impact on workers' compensation, public workers health and retirement benefits, and prepaid health insurance.

That's the conclusion of a report released yesterday by state auditor Marion Higa.

Higa said her findings should come as no surprise since there were only 435 reciprocal beneficiary relationships on file with the Health Department as of October. The state has a population of more than 1.1 million.

"The limited fiscal impact is also due in part to the limited benefits granted by the law," she wrote. "Our findings include the impact on state government, county government, the private sector and consumers in Hawaii."

The reciprocal beneficiaries law covers other couples that are not allowed to marry, such as a widow and son, or two brothers.

While applicable to more than just homosexual couples, the law has been touted by some same-gender marriage advocates as a limited version of domestic partnerships, giving a number of financial benefits of marriage but not the title of marriage.

Higa found no instances in which a reciprocal beneficiary received workers' compensation death benefits. And only one person has been named a death-benefit recipient under the state's and county's retirement plan, which makes benefit payments upon an employee's death.

Moreover, the state and counties contributed less than $56,000 during fiscal 1997-98 "as their share of reciprocal beneficiary family coverage premiums under the health fund," Higa said.

"Privately run health-care organizations see little impact from the reciprocal beneficiaries law," she added.

Same-sex marriage:
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