By Jimmy LaSalvia
The conventional wisdom says that gays and lesbians should support Democrats’ efforts to expand the federal government’s role in healthcare. After all, in 2008 more than 70 percent of gay voters supported Barack Obama for president, and Democrats up and down the ballot count on gay dollars to fuel their campaigns and advocacy work. The Democrats would never push healthcare reform that actually hurts gay and lesbian Americans, right? Wrong.
The truth is that Democratic efforts to expand government-run healthcare will expand discrimination and make quality, affordable healthcare even less available to gay and lesbian families all across the country.
The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and signed by a Democratic president — Bill Clinton — prohibits the extension of domestic partner healthcare benefits and denies recognition of any same-sex relationship. Indeed, even the Obama administration admitted that this legislation would bar the extension of domestic partner healthcare benefits.
The left’s demand for government-run healthcare, the so-called “public option,” will leave gay and lesbian families completely and totally out. Gays, who currently are able to secure health insurance that provides for domestic partner benefits for their families, will find no such options when it comes to government-run healthcare. Worst, low-income gay and lesbian families, who can’t afford private insurance and will be forced by federal mandate into government-run healthcare, will be hit the hardest.
This isn’t the first time that the Democratic Party has put its allegiance to big government over the best interests of gay Americans. In 2005, during the debate over how to reform Social Security and guarantee its solvency, Republicans proposed the creation of optional personal savings accounts. The optional accounts would have allowed gays and lesbians to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. While current federal law prohibits same-sex couples from leaving their Social Security benefits to a same-sex partner, personal savings accounts would have allowed gays and lesbians to leave their hard-earned money to whomever they chose.
Personal savings accounts would have been a free-market victory for equality over government-sanctioned discrimination. The left, however, opposed any effort at establishing personal savings accounts — preferring to force gay and lesbian families to remain inside a system that refuses to recognize their relationships.
With today’s healthcare debate, we have another opportunity before us to show how we can use free-market principles to improve the lives of all Americans — but particularly gay and lesbian Americans.
Instead of pushing for an expansion of government-sanctioned discrimination, gays and lesbians should be pushing for free-market healthcare reforms that will expand access to domestic partner benefits and empower individuals to take control of their healthcare.
GOProud, the only national organization representing gay conservatives and their straight allies, has endorsed the bicameral Patients’ Choice Act, which would make quality, affordable healthcare available to all Americans without creating government-run healthcare.
Instead of expanding the federal government’s role in healthcare, the Patients’ Choice Act relies on free-market principles. It would move us from an employer-based system of healthcare to one where health insurance is owned and controlled by individuals.
By taking control of healthcare out of the hands of employers and putting it into the hands of individuals, the Patients’ Choice Act expands access to domestic partner benefits and empowers individuals by giving gay Americans the opportunity to purchase the insurance tailored to their family’s needs. Instead of waiting for their employer or the federal government to decide to offer domestic partner benefits, gays and lesbians will be able to use their advanceable and refundable tax credit to purchase healthcare coverage that provides for domestic partners.
The legislation also allows for regional pooling for states. Within these regional pools, individuals would be able to buy healthcare insurance across state lines — allowing those in states that do not offer domestic partner benefits to buy insurance in states that do offer those benefits.
The gay community should know by now that the marketplace has always treated gays and lesbians better than the government has. In fact, according to the Human Rights Campaign — the self-professed voice of the LGBT community — 83 percent of Fortune 100 companies offer domestic partner benefits to their gay employees, benefits denied by law to employees of the federal government.
The last place gay and lesbian Americans should look for equitable treatment is the federal government. Whether its relationship recognition, military service, tax fairness, or any of dozens of other issues, the federal government discriminates against gay and lesbian Americans. Why would it be any different when it comes to healthcare?
LaSalvia is the executive director of GOProud. Its website is www.goproud.org.