Affordable Health Care for (Some) Americans Act passes

Last night was a tough one.  We came home intending to watch a movie and I screwed it up by getting sucked into the debate on healthcare … we hit the front door about 20 minutes before the vote on the Stupak (Women are Stupid) Amendment that made abortion unfundable across the nation.  A few hours later, the entire bill (with the Amendment) passed … a historic moment for the United States as it will allegedly insure 96% of Americans.  Minus a few uteri but whatever.

The battle is far from over.  There's the Senate war which could take months.  Then conference.  So forth.  But history was made last night.  Herstory, too, albeit reinforcing the centuries old tale of other people making decisions for women. 

News for the LGBT community isn't so dire.  Here's a summary from the HRC.

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.

There are major concerns that trans health issues will be on the chopping block so it is important to monitor the legislation.  I haven't been very successful identifying anyone outside of the HRC who seems to have good information so please share if you can do so. 

The economic impact of addressing tax discrimination is very big.  I know more than a few queer families that don't utilize DP benefits because the family cost PLUS the additional tax burden is outrageous.  This adds up to thousands of dollars.  We have a good family plan so the additional cost still makes insurance more affordable than two individual plans, but it is a huge burden for a social worker and a public employee.  That's cash we can invest into the community, our home, etc.

This will make the City of Pittsburgh's Domestic Partner Registry more powerful so I hope the members of the Mayor's Advisory Board are paying attention to how this might pan out for municipal involvement.

It was intriguing last night to see who was monitoring new social media to follow the health care debate.  Staffers posting updates on Facebook.  Legislators tweeting that they were checking in from their Saturday night plans.  I regret missing our movie.  We did catch the debut of openly lesbian Wanda Sykes' new talk show on FOX.  She was hysterical and very political.  It was awesome. No temptation to even flip to SNL. 

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