Connect with us

Health

LGBT provisions cut from health care reform bill

Published

on

The health care package President Obama signed into law Tuesday drew mixed reactions from LGBT rights advocates who praised the legislation for bringing sweeping reform, but expressed disappointment at the exclusion of some LGBT and HIV/AIDS provisions.

After he signed the $940 billion package in the East Room of the White House, Obama touted that the bill would set up insurance exchanges to extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans.

“But now what we’re going to do is create exchanges all across the country where uninsured people — small businesses — they’re going to be able to purchase affordable, quality insurance,” he said. “They will be part of a big pool, just like federal employees are part of a big pool.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, praised the legislation. In a statement, she called it “a historic step toward ensuring access to health care for roughly 32 million people.”

“Millions of people across the country are suffering from a lack of adequate, affordable health care and experience unfair, inhumane treatment at the hands of the health insurance industry,” she said. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families are among those affected by this broken and imbalanced health care system, which this law aims to fix.”

But the legislation that made its way to the president’s desk lacked any of the LGBT-specific or HIV/AIDS language passed last year in the House version of the bill.

Gone from the final package was a provision eliminating the tax paid on domestic partner health benefits received under an employer plan, as well as language authorizing states to cover low-income people with HIV before they develop AIDS. Also missing is language providing for non-discrimination in health care and a provision authorizing the federal government to collect health care data on the LGBT population.

In a statement, Terry Hamilton, board chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, lambasted Obama and Congress for excluding those provisions from the final health care bill.

“It is disheartening to see the Democratic congressional majority continue to sideline LGBT agenda items — especially critical health care issues — in the name of political expediency,” Hamilton said. “How much longer do they expect gays and lesbians to support them as they continue to take a pass on every opportunity to support our community?”

Acknowledging the lack of those provisions, Carey said the Task Force would continue to fight for additional health care reform that specifically targets LGBT people and disadvantaged groups.

“Every April 15, same-sex couples and our families write an extra check to the [Internal Revenue Service] to pay for domestic partner and spousal benefits — the very same benefits opposite-sex married couples get tax free,” she said. “The federal government must add sexual orientation and gender identity-specific questions to all national health surveys in order to get a more accurate picture of the community’s needs.”

A House Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the early treatment for HIV and data collection provisions weren’t included in the final bill because they had no budgetary implications and thus were ineligible under parliamentary rules.

Congress is passing health care reform through the reconciliation process so that only 51 votes are required in the Senate for passage for the final bill as opposed to the 60 that would be needed to overcome any filibuster. Under this process, any changes the House wanted to make to the previously approved Senate bill had to be part of a sidecar reconciliation package. But under reconciliation, only matters related to the budget are eligible for a vote.

As for the domestic partner tax elimination provision, which may have budgetary implications because it deals with taxation, the House aide deferred to the White House on why the provision wasn’t included in the final bill. A White House spokesperson declined to comment.

Although the LGBT and HIV/AIDS provisions unique to the House legislation weren’t included in the reconciliation package, the final bill has one provision aimed to help to HIV/AIDS community that was included in both the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

The language would enable AIDS Drug Assistance Program expenditures to count toward out-of-pocket expenses under Medicare Part D. People with HIV/AIDS on Medicare who receive help purchasing HIV drugs would thus have a lightened burden for other prescription drug costs.

Other provisions in the final bill — less explicitly directed at people with HIV/AIDS — would assist people living with the disease.

The final health bill eliminates discrimination based on health status or pre-existing conditions, such as HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the bill expands Medicaid eligibility for people with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level, allowing more low-income people with HIV to access Medicaid and its prescription drug coverage.

Although the House LGBT provisions were missing from the final bill, advocates on Capitol Hill pledged to work to pass this language through other legislative vehicles.

In a statement, Jerilyn Goodman, spokesperson for lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis), an advocate of the LGBT legislative language, said the lawmaker looks forward to passing the health care bill and pursuing “every available option to pass the other LGBT provisions.”

In a message on the Human Rights Campaign web site, Brian Moulton, HRC’s chief legislative counsel, said his organization was “deeply disappointed” the LGBT language was omitted. Still, he noted that HRC would continue working for the provisions.

“While we are saddened that the House has abandoned provisions that would make care more accessible and affordable to our community, we recognize that the health reform measure will still help all Americans, including LGBT people,” he said. “Important reforms like eliminating pre-existing condition limitations and expanding Medicaid will significantly impact people living with HIV and AIDS.”

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Commentary

Asian American and LGBTQ: A Heritage of Pride

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Published

on

Glenn D. Magpantay (Photo courtesy of Glenn D. Magpantay)

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs) are the nation’s fastest growing racial minority group by 2040, one in 10 Americans will be of Asian ancestry. And, while many Americans think that anti-Asian hate and racism towards Asian Americans has disappeared, the community disagrees.

The Asian American Foundation which found that Asian Americans are continually subjected to hate, violence, and discrimination, baldly reveals that disparity. 

  • 33 percent of Americans think hate towards Asian Americans has increased in the past year, compared to 61 percent of Asian Americans themselves.
  • In the past year, 32 percent of Asian Americans across the country reported being called a racial slur; 29 percent said they were verbally harassed or verbally abused.
  • Southeast Asian Americans report even higher incidences of being subject to racial slurs (40 percent), verbal harassment or abuse (38 percent), and threats of physical assault (22 percent).
  • Many Asian Americans live in a state of fear and anxiety with 41 percent of Asian American/ Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) believing they will likely be the victims of a physical attack due to their race, ethnicity, or religion. These numbers are disturbing.  

I serve as the only Asian American Pacific Islander member on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. And, I am the first and only queer AAPI on the U.S. commission. I am deeply honored to both serve my country and represent my Asian Americans and Pacific Islander community.    

Last year, the commission investigated the Federal Response to Anti-Asian Racism in the United States. With congressional authorization, the report documented the experiences of AANHPIs in the U.S. since the dubbing of COVID-19 as the “China Virus” infecting people with the “Kung Flu” by government leadership. Words matter, as this report shows.

This report has a deep personal connection for me. I am the survivor of a hate crime of 25 years ago for being gay, and the victim of a hate crime for being Asian 25 months ago 

The Stop AAPI Hate Coalition reported that bias incidents against individuals who are Asian and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) were most prominent between 2019 and 2022, highlighting the intersectional nature of these incidents. For example, two transgender Asian women stated: 

“I was with my new boyfriend at a restaurant. When we walked in the server started calling me names … a b—h, ch—k, tra—i.e. … He said I have a big fat p—s, and told me to go back to China. Then my boyfriend proceeded to walk in the restaurant and when I took a step forward, the server hit me, so I left.” 

“Left a restaurant with friends in the Asian district of town. A man began to follow me calling out ‘Hey you f—got c—k!’ and ‘Come here you virus!’ I began to walk fast towards a crowd until he stopped following me.”

To address these and other equally appalling experiences, I helped shepherd the bipartisan Commission on Civil Rights recommendations to the president, Congress, and the nation that: 

  • Prosecutors and law enforcement should vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans, as well as Asian Americans who are LGBTQ.
  • First responders should be trained to understand what exactly constitutes a hate crime in their jurisdiction, including the protections of LGBTQ people.
  • Federal, state, and local law enforcement and victim services should identify deficiencies in their programs for individuals with limited English proficiency

Greater language access will make an enormous impact for the Asian American community as one in five Asian individuals speak a language other than English at home. A third (34 percent) is limited English proficient. The most frequently spoken languages are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Thai, Khmer, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, and Punjabi.   

For me, this report comes full circle. Since 1988, I’ve lobbied for passage of LGBTQ-inclusive federal and state laws to prevent hate crimes. Since 2001, I’ve supported South Asian and Muslim victims of post 9/11 violence. In response to the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla, in 2016; Atlanta Spa in Georgia in 2021; and Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2022, I‘ve trained over 3,000 lawyers, law students, and community leaders on hate crimes law.  

And yet, our work is not yet done. 

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Despite these challenges, we are resilient. Let us join together in celebrating our Heritage of Pride 

Glenn D. Magpantay, Esq., is a long-time civil rights attorney, professor of law and Asian American Studies, and LGBTQ rights activist. Glenn is a founder and former Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). He is principal at Magpantay & Associates: A nonprofit consulting and legal services firm. In 2023, the U.S. Senate (majority) appointed Glenn to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to advise Congress and the White House on the enforcement of civil rights laws and development of national civil rights policy. 

Continue Reading

Health

CDC issues warning on new ‘deadlier strain’ of mpox

WHO says epidemic is escalating in Congo

Published

on

JYNNEOS mpox vaccine (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a health advisory regarding a deadlier strain of the Mpox virus outbreak which is currently impacting the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the CDC, since January 2023, DRC has reported more than 19,000 suspect mpox cases and more than 900 deaths. The CDC stated that the overall risk to the U.S. posed by the clade I mpox outbreak is low.

The risk to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men who have more than one sexual partner and people who have sex with men, regardless of gender, is assessed as low to moderate the agency stated.

While no cases of that subtype have been identified outside sub-Saharan Africa so far, the World Health Organization said earlier this week that the escalating epidemic in Congo nevertheless poses a global threat, just as infections in Nigeria set off the 2022 outbreak according to a WHO spokesperson.

The spokesperson also noted that as Pride Month and events happen globally, there is more need for greater caution and people to take steps at prevention including being vaccinated.

The CDC advises that while there are no changes to the overall risk assessment, people in the U.S. who have already had mpox or are fully vaccinated should be protected against the type of mpox spreading in DRC. Casual contact, such as might occur during travel, is not likely to cause the disease to spread. The best protection against mpox is two doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

The CDC also noted the risk might change as more information becomes available, or if cases appear outside DRC or other African countries where clade I exists naturally.

Continue Reading

Commentary

Journalists are not the enemy

Wednesday marks five years since Blade reporter detained in Cuba

Published

on

The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government over the last decade has cracked down on the country's independent media. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Wednesday marked five years since the Cuban government detained me at Havana’s José Marti International Airport.

I had tried to enter the country in order to continue the Washington Blade’s coverage of LGBTQ and intersex Cubans. I found myself instead unable to leave the customs hall until an airport employee escorted me onto an American Airlines flight back to Miami.

This unfortunate encounter with the Cuban regime made national news. The State Department also noted it in its 2020 human rights report.

Press freedom and a journalist’s ability to do their job without persecution have always been important to me. They became even more personal to me on May 8, 2019, when the Cuban government for whatever reason decided not to allow me into the country.  

Washington Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers after the Cuban government detained him at Havana’s José Marti International Airport on May 8, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

‘A free press matters now more than ever’

Journalists in the U.S. and around the world on May 3 marked World Press Freedom Day.

Reporters without Borders in its 2024 World Press Freedom Index notes that in Cuba “arrests, arbitrary detentions, threats of imprisonment, persecution and harassment, illegal raids on homes, confiscation, and destruction of equipment — all this awaits journalists who do not toe the Cuban Communist Party line.” 

“The authorities also control foreign journalists’ coverage by granting accreditation selectively, and by expelling those considered ‘too negative’ about the government,” adds Reporters without Borders.

Cuba is certainly not the only country in which journalists face persecution or even death while doing their jobs.

• Reporters without Borders notes “more than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces, including at least 22 in the course of their work” in the Gaza Strip since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Media groups have also criticized the Israeli government’s decision earlier this month to close Al Jazeera’s offices in the country.

• Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Washington Post contributor and Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Alsu Kurmasheva remain in Russian custody. Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributes to the Post, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012.

• Reporters without Borders indicates nearly 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and 28 others have disappeared.

The Nahal Oz border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Nov. 21, 2016. Reporters without Borders notes the Israel Defense Forces have killed more than 100 Palestinian reporters in the enclave since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his World Press Freedom Day notes more journalists were killed in 2023 “than in any year in recent memory.”

“Authoritarian governments and non-state actors continue to use disinformation and propaganda to undermine social discourse and impede journalists’ efforts to inform the public, hold governments accountable, and bring the truth to light,” he said. “Governments that fear truthful reporting have proved willing to target individual journalists, including through the misuse of commercial spyware and other surveillance technologies.”

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, who is a former journalist, in her World Press Freedom Day statement noted journalists “are more essential than ever to safeguarding democratic values.” 

“From those employed by international media organizations to those working for local newspapers, courageous journalists all over the world help shine a light on corruption, encourage civic engagement, and hold governments accountable,” she said.

President Joe Biden echoed these points when he spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner here in D.C. on April. 27.

“There are some who call you the ‘enemy of the people,'” he said. “That’s wrong, and it’s dangerous. You literally risk your lives doing your job.”

I wrote in last year’s World Press Freedom Day op-ed that the “rhetoric — ‘fake news’ and journalists are the ‘enemy of the people’ — that the previous president and his followers continue to use in order to advance an agenda based on transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, islamophobia, and white supremacy has placed American journalists at increased risk.” I also wrote the “current reality in which we media professionals are working should not be the case in a country that has enshrined a free press in its constitution.”

“A free press matters now more than ever,” I concluded.

That sentiment is even more important today.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular