Friday, July 17, 2009

House Introduces ‘Comprehensive’ Health Care Reform Bill

On Tuesday, July 14th, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the American’s Affordable Health Choices Act (AAHCA). This bill lays out the House’s blueprints for comprehensive health care reform legislation. Three Committees with jurisdiction over health policy – Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, and Ways and Means - claimed that the bill would reduce out-of-control costs, encourage competition among insurance plans to improve choices for patients, and expand access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

The bill has a major impact on our LGBT loved ones and while it is not perfect, we are happy to note that it does include some of the items we have been lobbying for over the past few months. Below please find a few highlights from the bill as it relates to our LGBT loved ones:
  • Semi-Inclusive Definition of Family. Throughout most of the bill’s text, it refers to “family” and “family coverage” in a way that does not exclude same-sex couples and their children – a very positive step. Due to the Defense of Marriage Act’s restrictions, it frames certain programs, taxes, and benefits around the term “spouse,” which has a limited definition of being a husband or wife in a different-sex marriage.

  • Data Collection and Health Disparities. The bill creates a new Assistant Secretary for Health Information at the Department of Health and Human Services and charges them with ensuring the proper collection of critical health data – including, for the first time, data on sexual orientation and gender identity. This collection of data is a major step for our government in taking a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of LGBT individuals. The bill falls short, however, of including LGBT people in provisions focusing on populations with significant health disparities.

  • Discrimination Protections. The bill includes important protections for LGBT people from discrimination by insurance companies or health care providers based on personal characteristics that are unrelated to the provision of quality health care. Presently, federal law does not offer protections against discrimination by insurance companies or health care providers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Without such protections, LGBT people face serious disparities in receiving adequate care, healthcare services and access to insurance benefits.

PFLAG National continues to work in coalition with our community partners to advocate congress members and key committees to include the important provisions laid out by Representative Tammy Baldwin’s (WI-2) Ending LGBT Healthcare Disparities Act – H.R. 3001 – which was a bill introduced earlier this summer to address the health disparities experienced by LGBT Americans, to eliminate the barriers they face in accessing quality health care, and to ensure that good health and well-being is accessible to all. If you have any questions regarding our involvement with this work, please be sure to contact us.

-Rhodes Perry

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