Healthcare Reform Bill Update
July 17, 2009
As we reported earlier, things are moving fast and furious on health reform in the House this week, and we’re pleased to report that additional provisions benefiting the LGBT community have been included during the committee markups. First, when the House Ways and Means Committee passed its version of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (AAHCA) around 2 o’clock this morning, it included language from the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act – a bill that we fondly refer to as DP Tax – which would end the unfair taxation of domestic partner health benefits. Under current law, employer-provided health benefits for different-sex spouses are not taxed as income, but domestic partner benefits are. As a result, an employee who gets DP benefits for his or her partner pays more taxes, and the fair-minded company that offers those benefits is saddled with having to keep two sets of payroll books, as well as paying additional payroll taxes. HRC has been working for many years to remedy this inequity and lobbied for it to be addressed as part of health reform. We are thrilled this language was included and thank Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rangel (D-NY) and lead DP Tax sponsor Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) for their leadership on this issue. Read HRC President Joe Solmonese's letter to Chairman Rangel. Simultaneously, a late-night effort on health reform also occurred in the House Education and Labor Committee. The committee worked until 6 am – and then started up again at 9:15 – to finish their review of AAHCA. Around 2:45, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) offered an amendment to strengthen language already in the bill on data collection and health disparities, including about LGBT people. The committee accepted Polis’ proposal by voice vote, and passed its version of the health reform measure a little after 10 o’clock this morning. We thank Rep. Polis for his efforts to include this additional language ensuring that critical data on LGBT health needs are part of efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services to better understand and address health disparities. Meanwhile, review of the bill at the House Energy and Commerce Committee continues today, and will probably carry over into next week. Then, the three versions will have to be reconciled for consideration on the House floor. And, of course, there’s the Senate too. HRC will continue to monitor the process and push Congress to ensure that the health needs of LGBT people are part of this historic reform of our nation’s health care system. Stay tuned for more updates. This post contributed by HRC Senior Counsel Brian Moulton.