Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health care reform shorts:
Are gay people in? or out?

According to the DC-area gay pub Metro Weekly, the version of health care reform put forward by the President ahead of the ballyhooed "summit" leaves out the gay-affirming provisions that lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) got included in the House version of the bill.

Most LGBT and HIV activists had supported the House bill because it included key LGBT specific provisions.... In addition to ... data collection [on LGBT health issues], it prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the provision of health care; enabled people with HIV and low incomes to obtain Medicare coverage earlier in the course of their illness; and eliminated the tax that gay employees must pay if their same-sex partners or spouses receive health coverage from their employers' plan. Straight employees don't pay that tax but, for gay couples, the coverage is characterized by the federal government as additional income for the gay employee.

Baldwin said Monday she would ''continue to fight for all of my priorities in the final health care reform bill, including those related to LGBT health."

My household actually pays that extra tax since the Feds don't recognize our relationship, so I'm a directly interested party.

It's only fair to say that Baldwin also emphasized that

President Obama's proposal Monday ''an important step forward'' that ''helps to regain our momentum'' on health care reform efforts.

To me, this is yet again an instance in which the ruling Democrats, either led or not by President, confront an opportunity to treat LGBT people as full citizens -- or deny that we fully belong. Mostly, they choose the second option. It looks easier. Nothing that matters is easy.

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