Federal Same-Sex Benefits Would Cost Taxpayers $898 Million Over Next Decade

By Fred Lucas | December 21, 2009 | 4:51 PM EST

Gay theme (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Taxpayers will pay almost $900 million over the next 10 years to extend federal employee benefits to homosexual couples, according to an analysis of “domestic partners” legislation by the Congressional Budget Office. But supporters of the bill say the costs will be offset in other areas.

President Barack Obama has voiced support for the measure. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved the measure last Wednesday, while the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a measure last month. The bill still awaits a vote on the floor of both chambers.

The benefits for same-sex couples would include health insurance, survivor annuities, compensation for work-related injuries, disability, family leave, life insurance, dental benefits and travel and relocation benefits that affect the federal budget.

“CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2517 [the House version] would increase direct spending by $596 million through 2019, and that enacting the bill would not have any direct impact on federal revenues,” the CBO estimate, released on Thursday, said. “Over the same period, CBO estimates that discretionary spending would also increase by $302 million, assuming appropriation of the necessary funds.”

The CBO said that providing additional health insurance benefits through the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program causes the largest increase in both mandatory spending -- $590 million -- and discretionary spending, $266 million.

In addition to extending spousal benefits to homosexual partners, the legislation also extends obligations such as conflict-of-interest provisions, anti-nepotism rules and disclosure requirements, according to the Senate Homeland Security Committee. 

“This legislation is on the right side of history and is really about equal pay and benefits for equal work,” Sen. Joe Lieberman(I-Conn.), the committee chairman, said in a statement after the passage last week. 

“Will this measure add to the total cost of providing federal employee benefits?” Lieberman continued. “Yes, but only by a tiny fraction -- less than five-hundredths of a percent -- of the total pay and benefits for federal employees. And we will offset the cost with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, so the bill will be fiscally responsible.”

Lieberman did not specify in the statement where the offsets would come from.

The CBO assumes about 0.33 percent of the federal workforce would choose to register a same-sex domestic partnership if they were given the chance. 

For each year from 2011 to 2019, the CBO expects about 5,200 more coverage policies to be added to the federal health insurance program. Adding U.S. Postal Service retirees, the number increases by 2,000 each year. 

“That figure is based on information previously gathered from state and local governments as well as recent research on organizations that have adopted similar policies,” the CBO analysis says.

Further, the CBO “estimates that approximately 80 percent of individuals eligible under the proposal would move from single to family health coverage and that 85 percent would elect a survivor benefit for a domestic partner.”

According to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, almost 10,000 private-sector companies, 22 states and 300 colleges and universities provide similar benefits.