The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Domestic-Partner Benefits Are on the Decline in Higher Ed

For the first time since 2005, the number of colleges and universities offering healthcare benefits for employees’ domestic partners has decreased.

According to CUPA-HR’s 2019 Healthcare Benefits for Higher Education Employees Survey, in just the past two years, the number of higher education institutions offering healthcare benefits for same-sex domestic partners has fallen 10 percentage points, and the number offering these benefits for opposite-sex domestic partners has fallen 6 percentage points.

The survey also found that the gap between healthcare offerings for same- and opposite-sex partners has shrunk from 22 percentage points in 2017 to 18 percentage points in 2019.



Says Jackie Bichsel, lead author of the survey report and director of research for CUPA-HR, “The 2015 Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry is likely one of the reasons for the decrease in the percentage of institutions offering benefits to domestic partners and to the narrowing of the gap between healthcare offerings for same- and opposite-sex partners.”

Other findings from the survey include:

  • The most popular plan type, Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, are offered by 83 percent of institutions. Point of Service (POS) plans remain the least popular, offered by only 12 percent of institutions.
  • More than half of institutions offer two types of healthcare plans. Of the 55 percent that offer two plans, two-thirds (67 percent) offer both PPO and High Deductible Health (HDH) plans.
  • Offerings of stand-alone dental, vision and long-term care plans have decreased slightly over the past two years.
  • Also over the past two years, there has been a decline in the percentage of institutions offering healthcare benefits to retirees over the age of 65, retirees under the age of 65 and part-time employees.
  • Although the percentage of institutions with wellness programs has not changed much since 2017, resources for wellness programs (in the form of both budgets and dedicated staff) have declined.
  • Nearly all wellness programs have physical wellness education and activities as components. Fewer (around three-fourths) have financial wellness components. More than four in five institutions provide at least one incentive (financial or non-financial) for participating in their wellness program.

A total of 365 higher education institutions responded to this year’s survey. Data collected on wellness programs included budget amounts, staffing, components and incentives. CUPA-HR collects data on healthcare benefits biennially. In alternate years, data on time off, tuition reimbursement and retirement are collected.

For a list of participating institutions, an overview of the results, information on data collected and options for purchasing the survey report and DataOnDemand, visit the Healthcare Benefits for Higher Education Employees web page.

For more on benefits in higher education, browse the benefits-related toolkits in CUPA-HR’s Knowledge Center.