House Passes Health Reform Legislation, Heads to President’s Desk
March 22, 2010
Late last night, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 219-212, sent the health care reform legislation passed by the Senate in December to President Obama for his signature. In a separate vote, 220-211, the House passed a package of amendments to that Senate-passed bill, which must now go to the Senate for its consideration. The Senate is expected to take up those amendments as soon as Tuesday. As we told you last week, the important LGBT-specific provisions that the House had passed as part of its own health reform bill last November were -- despite intense lobbying over the last year -- not included in the Reconciliation Act. We have not given up and will keep looking for ways to move these important provisions forward. We are seeking another tax vehicle in which to include the domestic partner benefits tax fix, the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act. We will push Congress to pass the Early Treatment for HIV Act and, in the interim, continue to lobby for robust funding of federal HIV/AIDS treatment, research and prevention programs. We will lobby the Department of Health and Human Services to include LGBT people as part of the health disparities data collection under the health reform bill, as well as all of its health programs, and seek appropriations dollars to fund LBGT-specific health questions on federal health surveys. While the specific needs of LGBT people were not, in the end, addressed in this historic health reform effort, HRC will continue to push Congress and the administration to take these important steps to protect the health and well-being of our community. Despite its shortcomings for LGBT people, the health care reform legislation passed last night is indeed historic and contains provisions that will help all Americans, including our community. Among these important provisions are:
- A ban on denying insurance coverage based on a pre-existing condition or health status, and from imposing lifetime caps on coverage. This will be particularly helpful for individuals living with chronic disease, such as HIV and AIDS, and for transgender people.
- A substantial investment in Community Health Centers. This money could benefit the many LBGT-focused health centers in communities across the country.
- Expanded Medicaid eligibility, health insurance exchanges and other programs to provide health coverage for more low-income Americans. This will help the most vulnerable people in every community, including ours.
- Funds for comprehensive sex education programs and other prevention-focused efforts. While the bill unfortunately restores funding for disproven abstinence-only education that ignores LGBT youth, it also provides dollars for science-based programs that will focus on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
- Improvements to collection of data on health disparities. While the bill does not explicitly require data collection on LGBT people, it allows HHS to collect other demographic data important to its mission of addressing health disparities.
Along with our continued efforts to move forward with the LGBT-specific provisions left out of this bill, HRC is also committed to pushing the Obama administration to implement this historic reform in a manner that takes into account the needs of our community to the greatest extent possible. This is a tremendous step towards improving our health care system, but there is a great deal more that must be done to ensure that system serves LGBT people equally.
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