Leaders of Stellar Therapy Services, a Chattanooga-based independent therapy employer, recently made the decision to extend insurance benefits to domestic partners.
"We had requests from some employees and identified we weren't meeting all the needs," owner Melissa Christopher said. "The previous insurance was based on married couples."
When the time came for Stellar leaders to renew insurance services, they worked with the company's BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee representative to get policies that better fit the employees' needs, she said.
Including domestic partners reflects the company's values, Christopher said.
Leaders also made the change to include family members who wouldn't traditionally be covered as dependents.
The changes were effective Sept. 1.
It wasn't difficult for leaders to make the changes—they just had to ask, Christopher said.
Although she can't be sure there won't be any in the future, so far, there hasn't been any negative feedback about the move, she also said.
Company leaders also aim to meet other employee needs, too. They are flexible with schedules and understanding if an employee has a sick child or needs to attend a school event, Christopher said.
"As part of the way we do business, we are very committed to our employees," she said. "The field of therapy services and staffing is very competitive. The advantage we have is taking care of our employees."
According to a Nooga.com article from July, most major employers in Chattanooga don't provide employee benefits that cover domestic partners.
Four of Chattanooga's largest nongovernmental employers—as defined by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce—confirmed that they offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners of employees, according to archives.
Volkswagen, Unum, BCBST and Cigna—all of which do business outside Tennessee—confirmed that they offer such benefits.
Erlanger Health System, Memorial Health Care System and Astec leaders said they don't offer those benefits.
Pilgrim's, which also operates across the country, also does not.
McKee Foods and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment, according to archives.
"I absolutely would recommend that other businesses consider expanding their coverage," she said. "For us, it's a reflection of our values—we are very employee-focused."
About Stellar Therapy Services
The company, which has about 90 employees, has three areas of expertise. The business is made up of 20 office staff and 75 therapists.
Employees offer staffing for occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language therapy by providing contract therapy staff to facilities and agencies, such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health care agencies and school systems.
The company, which was founded in 2001, also offers administrative assistance for Medicaid reimbursement in schools across the state.
The business also has a pediatric clinic, where employees see children for therapy services and do group programs, such as social skills exercises.
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