Monday, November 09, 2009

Half a loaf?

Maybe so. The health insurance bill passed by the House isn't the bill I'd like to see, and as I expected, isn't one that's going to do a great deal for me. Being required to purchase insurance that I can't really afford and that, because of likely co-pays and deductibles, I can't really use, isn't anything like the single payer plan I've been advocating for decades. Still, as The Littlest Gator says...
I know we had some bad defeats in this. I know they beat up on women as usual, I know it is not single payer, I know that the "robust" public option is not going to be robust enough. But let's just remember-- WE GOT RID OF PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS! If nothing else were to have passed, this alone, this one thing, is going to save lives, heartache, family homes, family savings. Just that one change.
Nope, it's not the bill I would have written, but it will save lives. It's not the bill the AFL-CIO would have written either, but they're on board because
It will end the national scandal of medical bankruptcy—the number one cause of personal bankruptcy—by eliminating lifetime caps on insurer payments and limiting annual out-of-pocket costs. Medical bankruptcies affect up to 4,000 families every day in the United States—and 78 percent of them are fully insured.
· It ends abusive insurance company practices, including the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions and “rescissions”—the practice of canceling coverage when patients file claims.
· It provides subsidies to help middle-class and lower-income families afford coverage.
· Through an exchange, it offers people a wide range of choices of insurance, including a public health insurance option that competes with private insurers.
· It narrows the “donut hole”—the gap in Medicare coverage for prescription drugs.
· It creates incentives to increase the number of doctors and boosts funding for community health centers.
· It allows young people to be covered by their parents’ insurance up to age 27.
· It creates a new fund to help employers give health coverage to early retirees.
· It provides for efficient, computerized medical records and other tools to streamline medical care and increase quality.
· It cuts costs to the federal government as well as to families, reducing the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years—thanks, in part, to the existence of a public health insurance option, which lowers costs across the system.
· Ad it’s fairly funded—through employer responsibility and a surtax on the very highest earners, not a tax on middle-class health benefits.
It's also not the bill that the Human Rights Campaign might have introduced either, but they, too, find enough right to get over whatever's wrong, citing important gains for the LGBT community...
· Health Disparities - the bill specifically designates LGBT people as a health disparities population, opening up health data collection and grant programs focused on health disparities related to sexual orientation and gender identity. With collection of data and funding of research, we can better address the specific health issues facing LGBT people.
· Unequal Taxation of Domestic Partner Benefits - the bill ends the unfair taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, incorporating the language of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act. Without this tax penalty, more people will be able to afford employer-provided coverage for their families, and more companies will be able to offer these important benefits.
· Early Treatment for HIV under Medicaid - the bill also incorporates the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which allows states to cover early HIV treatment under their Medicaid programs, instead of withholding treatment for Medicaid recipients until they develop full-blown AIDS, This will dramatically improve the quality of life for low-income people with HIV, as well as saving taxpayers money and reducing the transmission of the virus.
· Comprehensive Sex Education - the bill provides funding for comprehensive sex education programs that focus not only on abstinence, but also reducing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. After more than $1 billion wasted on failed and discriminatory abstinence-only programs, this funding will provide youth, including LGBT students, with the tools they need to live healthy lives.
· Non-discrimination - the bill prohibits consideration of personal characteristics unrelated to the provision of health care. HRC worked with a coalition of civil rights groups to develop and lobby for this language and we believe it will help protect LGBT people from discrimination in the health care system, where there are currently no federal protections for our community.
There's going to be a lot more to do - including moving the discussion from insurance to care - as we go forward, but first, let's get this done. It's worth doing, no matter what it doesn't do. It's not time to stop, but this is a place to start.

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