Few LGBT provisions in health care reform


Well, it’s pretty much over: with both health care reform legislation and the package of reconciliation “fixes” through the House, we are set to take a step toward universal health care.

Sadly, most of the landmark LGBT health-related provisions included in the House’s first try have not been included in the House’s “fixes” to the Senate bill, the only place where they could have been added while Democrats were using this parliamentary strategy.

HIV/AIDS patients on Medicare will get some relief for the cost of their medications, but there will be no prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, no Medicaid coverage for low-income HIV positive people, no end to taxes on health benefits for same-gender partners, and no research on LGBT health disparities.

So now that the biggest, bitterest fight in Washington D.C. is no longer taking up most of Congress’s attention, will this bittersweet victory produce the progress on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that the community has been clamoring for since Day One of the Obama administration? The answer is a solid Maybe.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), a leader in the House LGBT Equality Caucus along with Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), says she’s counted the votes on ENDA and DADT repeal, and believes both pieces of legislation would pass if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid let either one come to a floor vote.

But in response to a sit-in at her office last week to protest the lack of meaningful progress on either issue, Pelosi’s spokesperson said, in essence, that she didn’t want to touch the issue, for fear of being burned beyond the damage done by fallout from the health care reform vote.

“The Speaker believes passing ENDA is a top priority and hopes that we can bring ENDA up as soon as possible. That being said, the right time to bring the measure to the floor will be when we have the votes.”