A Call To Action – Health Care Reform And The GLBT Community
By Michael Barefield
It isn’t surprising that with all the GLBT political activist has to be concerned about today, weighing in on the healthcare reform debate hasn’t been at the top of the priority list. Competent, highly qualified men and women are being discharged from our armed forces in droves, because someone asked or someone told or for some other silly reason or for no reason at all. Although we’ve made some real progress, marriage is in the distant future for many committed GLBT couples. Discrimination lurks around every corner. In most states, GLBT people can legally be fired from their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation/gender identification. Physical violence against persons who identify as GLBT remains a serious problem, again, in spite of having made some real progress. The federal government continues to defend (albeit most recently less ardently) the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). There is much about which to be seriously concerned.
That said, I am not an activist, but I feel compelled to speak out, because the debate raging throughout the country now regarding proposed legislation (H.R. 3200) to reform how health care is delivered in the United States is arguably every bit as important as any of the aforementioned issues. The GLBT community is disproportionately and deleteriously affected by the current health care system. My first web log contribution to Our Own, which I will cross post at my good friend, Tristan Hand’s, progressive Ohio Blog, Dare To Dream, is a call to action to the GLBT community to involve yourselves in this debate.
Statistics regarding anything GLBT related are hard to come by. Statisticians can’t even agree on what percentage of the population is gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered. There are, however, some interesting studies, dating as far back as 2000, which provide empirical evidence for my statement that the GLBT community is disproportionately negatively affected by the status quo with regard to health care. Search Google’s scholarly article database, for example, for articles by A.L. Diamont, 2000 and Stahl, 2000.
While the myth that the gay community is affluent with much more disposable income than their straight counterparts has served us well over the years, it is a myth. Just look around you. For every affluent member of the community, there are 20 in retail with no health insurance, struggling to make their rent. Those who have acquired HIV, may take advantage of some existing government assistance programs for treating the HIV, but heaven help them if they need knee surgery. Even those who qualify for Disability Social Security must wait two years after the determination to be eligible for Medicare and Medicare doesn’t pay for everything. One needs Part B insurance to cover that which Medicare Part A does not cover and Part D to cover prescription drugs. With a pre-existing condition such as HIV, the premiums for these additional policies will be unaffordable without additional assistance, which is available in some places, but not everywhere.
The GLBT community has every reason to want and, indeed, insist upon reform that will result in universal coverage. Let your voices be heard. Call your representatives in both houses of congress. Do not let a blog comment or Facebook comment from the far right go unchallenged. Share your personal story of how the current health care delivery system has affected you. I would love to see the comments section of this blog fill up with your stories and those of your families. One important reason that I sit now before the keyboard is that I watched my parents bankrupted by my father’s illness and THEY HAD INSURANCE! With 80/20 coverage and the many, many exclusions in the policy, if you become seriously ill, you can be wiped out in a few months or less as they were. Decent, responsible, hard-working people – done.
We must rally our community to help pass this bill (or a reasonably modified version of it) for the sake of our community, our families and for the sake of ALL Americans.