News release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
WASHINGTON, March 21 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force calls the U.S. House passage of federal health care reform legislation a historic step forward. The legislation includes language to prohibit discrimination in some funding for federal public health programs; allocates $8.5 billion in funds for community health centers; prohibits exclusion on the basis of pre-existing conditions; and improves data collection on health disparities. These will mark significant changes for all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
However, the Task Force expressed deep disappointment in the absence of LGBT-specific provisions that were in the original House bill, including tax equity for employer-based health insurance coverage of same-sex couples and expanded Medicaid coverage for people with HIV. The Task Force is also disappointed in the inclusion of funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs; the continuation of a ban on legal immigrants’ Medicaid eligibility and on undocumented residents’ access to health insurance; the ongoing restrictions and attacks on funding for women’s reproductive rights services; and the lack of a public option.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
“Millions of people across the country are suffering from a lack of adequate, affordable health care and experience unfair, inhumane treatment at the hands of the health insurance industry. People of color and economically impoverished people are disproportionately affected by such health disparities. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families are among those affected by this broken and imbalanced health care system, which this legislation aims to fix.
“While far from perfect, this legislation marks a historic step toward ensuring access to health care for roughly 32 million people who are currently uninsured, and toward ending some of the health insurance industry’s most egregious abuses. There is no sound reason why anyone who wants insurance is refused adequate and affordable coverage, and no one should go bankrupt because of health care.
“The Task Force will continue to press for reform that specifically meets the needs of people of color, LGBT people, women and the economically struggling. Reform must address some of the stark realities that many of us face every day. For example, how LGBT families are legally defined greatly affects the costs of and access to coverage, and compounds the impact experienced by the thousands of people of color who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Every April 15, LGBT families write an extra check to the IRS to pay for domestic partner and same-sex spousal benefits — the very same benefits opposite-sex married couples get tax free. The federal government must add sexual orientation and gender identity-specific questions to all national health surveys in order to get a more accurate picture of the community’s needs. Right now, we’re virtually rendered invisible in those surveys.
“So, clearly, while there is much left to be done to make America’s health care system healthy and fair, this marks a critical start on the long road to full reform.”