Health Care Bill Passes House, Includes vital protections for LGBT families

WASHINGTON: The House narrowly passed its sweeping health bill late Saturday, marking the biggest victory yet for Democrats in their drive to create near-universal health insurance.

President Obama declared the result historic in his quest to provide quality, affordable healthcare for Americans.

Costing $US1.1 trillion ($1.2 trillion) over a decade, the healthcare bill is meant to extend coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans and stop private insurance companies rejecting people because of pre-existing medical conditions or dropping them because of serious illness.

Thanks to lobbying efforts by the Human Rights Campaign and leadership from Representative Jim McDermott, several LGBT provisions were included in the legislation. According to the Human Rights Campaign:

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.

Democrats portrayed their legislation as a moral imperative that would achieve a goal sought by presidents since Theodore Roosevelt. They argued it would fix the worst aspects of the medical system by preventing insurers from denying coverage to the sick and protecting consumers from financial ruin caused by medical bills.

"It is testimony to how we care for our fellow citizens," said John Larson (D., Conn.). "It is at the very core of all that America stands for, and why we came here to serve."


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