As the Obama administration celebrates getting over the first hurdle in passing sweeping reforms in health care, there is a side to the story that you might have missed.
On Saturday HRC posted this list of benefits to the LGBT community in the bill that may be another indication of the commitment of the president to address LGBT issues. The bill now goes to the senate.
Late this evening, the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, H.R. 3962, by a vote of 220 to 215. While this is a historic step toward improving health care for all Americans, it is also a tremendous advance for the health needs of LGBT people. HRC lobbied the three committees involved in drafting the bill to include provisions that would help LGBT people in particular obtain the improved access to health care that the Act is designed to provide. Some of these measures have been part of HRC’s legislative agenda as free-standing bills for many years. The key provisions in the bill that the House passed are:
Health Disparities – the bill specifically designates LGBT people as a health disparities population, opening up health data collection and grant programs focused on health disparities related to sexual orientation and gender identity. With collection of data and funding of research, we can better address the specific health issues facing LGBT people.
Unequal Taxation of Domestic Partner Benefits – the bill ends the unfair taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, incorporating the language of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act. Without this tax penalty, more people will be able to afford employer-provided coverage for their families, and more companies will be able to offer these important benefits.
Early Treatment for HIV under Medicaid – the bill also incorporates the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which allows states to cover early HIV treatment under their Medicaid programs, instead of withholding treatment for Medicaid recipients until they develop full-blown AIDS, This will dramatically improve the quality of life for low-income people with HIV, as well as saving taxpayers money and reducing the transmission of the virus.
Comprehensive Sex Education – the bill provides funding for comprehensive sex education programs that focus not only on abstinence, but also reducing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. After more than $1 billion wasted on failed and discriminatory abstinence-only programs, this funding will provide youth, including LGBT students, with the tools they need to live healthy lives.
Non-discrimination – the bill prohibits consideration of personal characteristics unrelated to the provision of health care. HRC worked with a coalition of civil rights groups to develop and lobby for this language and we believe it will help protect LGBT people from discrimination in the health care system, where there are currently no federal protections for our community.
As the legislative process moves forward, HRC will continue to work to ensure that these important provisions remain part of the bill that reaches the President’s desk and, once it is law, to see that it is properly implemented.
Steve Publicover is a veteran LGBT rights activist and blogger living in the Charlotte, NC area. Steve has an extensive background in public speaking, advocacy and education. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.