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How Obamacare repeal would hurt LGBT people

Trans, HIV/AIDS patients at risk if ACA goes down

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President-elect Donald Trump (left), U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have made Obamacare repeal a campaign promise. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

President-elect Donald Trump (left), U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have made Obamacare repeal a campaign promise. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

Amid persistent fears that a Donald Trump administration would roll back LGBT advances seen under President Obama, the protections that are most likely in jeopardy can be found in Obamacare.

A top campaign promise of President-elect Trump and Republicans in Congress — who will have unified control of the federal government — is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. One provision in the law ensures that transgender people have access to transition-related care; another ensures that low-income people with HIV/AIDS can obtain life-saving medication.

Section 1557 of Obamacare prohibits health care providers and insurers from discriminating on the basis of gender. The Obama administration has issued a rule interpreting that provision to bar discrimination in health care against gender non-conforming and transgender people, including for the purposes of transition-related care and gender reassignment surgery.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she doesn’t think “anybody knows anything right now” about what the Republicans will do, but acknowledged it will be hard for them to ignore Obamacare.

“So we know the Affordable Care Act is going to be assaulted somehow,” Keisling said. “We don’t know if Section 1557 is, and it would just be a real shame if it was. It just basically says health care providers can’t discriminate on the basis of race, age, disability and sex.”

In the event Congress were to repeal Section 1557, Keisling said a “belt-and-suspenders” system remains in place that would help protect transgender people, including state insurance commission rulings, professional association rules and state non-discrimination laws under which health care or public accommodations is listed.

But Keisling also said Congress could render Section 1557 moot not just by repealing it, but refusing to fund the Department & Health Human Services and the Office of Civil Rights at a level that could enforce it.

“If they decide to starve civil rights enforcement processes and functions in the federal government like the Bush administration did, that hurts us,” Keisling said.

Laura Durso, senior director of LGBT research and communications at the Center for American Progress, said repeal of Section 1557 would have “devastating consequences” for many communities, but in particular transgender people, whom she said would “lose vital protections.”

“Without these civil rights protections, we could to go back to a time when science and compassion take a back seat to misinformation and ideology, and we must demand better for our transgender siblings,” Durso said.

Durso said prior to the Affordable Care Act, transgender people “overwhelmingly reported negative experiences with the health insurance market due to denials of coverage,” but after Obamacare — in part because of Section 1557 — the rate of insurance for low- and middle-income transgender people dropped from 59 percent in 2013 to 35 percent in 2014.

Undoing Medicaid could hurt people with HIV/AIDS

Obamacare also expanded Medicaid to cover individuals with incomes at less than 133 percent of the poverty level. After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, states could elect whether or not to take part in the expansion. Thirty-one states and D.C. elected to expand Medicaid.

According to an October report from the Kaiser Foundation, Medicaid is estimated to cover more than 40 percent of people with HIV in care. Additionally, Medicaid accounts for 30 percent of all federal spending on HIV care, and when combined with the states’ share of spending, is the second largest source of public financing for HIV care in the United States, the report says.

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, said many people with HIV/AIDS depend on Medicaid — both for drug and doctor care — because “a lot of people with HIV are very poor,” raising fears about how Trump might undo efforts to address the epidemic.

“We’re obviously very concerned about how he’s going to address HIV/AIDS issues — both domestically and globally — and then the Affordable Care Act is just so important for people living with HIV or at risk of HIV, and I don’t think they know the magnitude,” Schmid said. “And I think, hopefully, cooler, smarter heads will prevail as you get into the details.”

Schmid said the Affordable Care Act also is effective in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic because it covers preventive care, including HIV testing, with no patient cost-sharing.

One idea Republicans have proposed is changing Medicaid to a block-grant system in which the federal government would discontinue its open-ended commitment to help states cover costs in exchange for certain commitments and, instead, provide states with annual lump sums, freeing them up to run the program as they wish.

But Schmid said that would be bad for people with HIV/AIDS because some states, he said, want to eliminate the single tablet regime in favor of less costly individual components, which would require people with the disease to take more tablets per day.

“We’re concerned about the block-granting because we’re going to lose those protections they have in place at the federal level,” Schmid said.

In the event Congress rolled back Medicaid, Schmid said there would be more pressure on the Ryan White Care Act, which before Obamacare covered low-income people with HIV/AIDS, as “the payer of last resort.”

“Under the ACA and Medicaid expansion, Ryan White clients have been able to gain coverage under Medicaid for health care and medications, and Ryan White has been able to provide additional support services, like case management, transportation and food,” Schmid said. “If Medicaid was reduced, those clients would have to go back to reliance on the Ryan White Program.”

Both Section 1557 and the Medicaid expansion could be particularly vulnerable in the 115th Congress. A Senate Democratic leadership aide said both components of Obamacare can be undone through the reconciliation process, which would mean only 51 votes — not 60 — would be needed invoke cloture to move forward with repeal of the provisions.

Keisling, however, said her read of Section 1557 is that it would require 60 votes to undo, which likely means Congress would only get rid of it by repealing Obamacare in its entirety.

“I think if Section 1557 goes, the whole thing goes,” Keisling said. “It’s not the funding part of the bill, it’s just about how as we have this system that we’re trying to make better, it shouldn’t be a discriminatory system.”

Will Republicans follow through on repeal?

With an estimated 20 million people enrolled in health insurance plans as a result of Obamacare and that number growing during the open enrollment, it remains to be seen whether Trump and Republicans will make good on their promise to undo the law.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was cagey during a news conference on Thursday when asked about plans to repeal Obamacare during the 115th Congress.

“It’s a great question,” Ryan said. “That’s one that we’re going to be dealing with all year long. This is — it’s too early to have, to know the answer to, how fast can Obamacare relief occur. What we’re focused on is how we get Obamacare repealed and what we replace it with, so that we can get that relief to the American families as fast as possible.”

David Popp, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said he has no “announcements or updates on any legislative action for the 115th Congress” when asked by the Washington Blade about plans to repeal Obamacare.

Republicans may feel pressured to act on repeal. A Morning Consult exit poll showed 58 percent of voters think the law should be repealed, compared to 36 percent of voters who think the law should remain as it is or be expanded.

During an interview last week on “60 Minutes,” Trump said he wants to keep some of the more popular components of Obamacare in place, such as the ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and the ability of parents to keep their kids on a family plan until they reach age 26.

“It’ll be just fine. we’re not going to have, like, a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. And we’ll know. And it’ll be great health care for much less money. So it’ll be better health care, much better, for less money. Not a bad combination.”

But Schmid said he doesn’t see how Trump could move forward with a pledge to eliminate the individual mandate for Americans to buy health insurance if he keeps the ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

“To do that, you really have to have the individual mandate,” Schmid said. “They go together, and I don’t think they realize that because the insurance companies don’t want just sick patients. They need everyone to make it work.”

President Obama during a news conference last week said Republicans who have made repeal of Obamacare the “Holy Grail” of the campaign will face difficult questions that may stymie them now that they have the opportunity to act on that goal.

“It’s one thing to characterize this thing as not working when it’s just an abstraction,” Obama said. “Now, suddenly, you’re in charge and you’re going to repeal it. OK, well, what happens to those 20 million people who have health insurance? Are you going to just kick them off and suddenly they don’t have health insurance? And in what ways are their lives better because of that?”

Katie Keith, a steering committee member of pro-LGBT Obamacare group Out2Enroll, said the current period of open enrollment presents an opportunity for LGBT people to enroll in plans and demonstrate support for the law.

“In particular, Section 1557 bans transgender exclusions in 2017 marketplace plans, which is an unprecedented new protection that will improve access to transition-related care,” Keith said. “That’s why Out2Enroll is all in to encourage trans people to enroll before the Dec. 15 deadline. If folks have been holding out on getting covered in the past, we get it, but we are encouraging everyone, especially trans people, to consider enrolling this year.”

Whatever the plans of Republicans and the Trump administration, Keisling said LGBT advocates are prepared to advocate to make the case the existing protections under Obamacare should remain in place.

“We all know we have to work to advocate harder than ever and meet with the new administration, advocate with Congress, advocate through professional medical and health care associations, and I think all of us, know that,” Keisling said.

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Celebrity News

Anne Heche dies after removal from life support

Actress dated Ellen DeGeneres in late 1990s

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(Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

Actress Anne Heche died after she was removed from life support on Sunday, nearly two weeks after her Mini-Cooper crashed through a two-story house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood. Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department believe she was intoxicated at the time.

She sustained a severe anoxic brain injury along with severe burns and was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, near Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

The 53-year-old actress who was a star of films like “Donnie Brasco,” the political satire “Wag the Dog” and the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” had been declared legally dead under California law on Friday, however, her family kept her alive long enough to be an organ donor.

In a statement Friday, the LAPD announced that: “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made in this case. Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case. When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.” LAPD detectives had previously made public that investigators into the crash found narcotics in a blood sample taken from Heche.

The actress’s family released a statement on Friday:

“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact,” the statement added.

Heche was married to camera operator Coleman Laffoon from 2001 to 2009. The two had a son, Homer, together. She had another son, named Atlas, during a relationship with actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”

Laffoon left a moving tribute on an Instagram reel in which he also gave an update on how their 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon is coping with the loss of his mother.

“I loved her and I miss her, and I’m always going to,” he said adding: “Homer is okay. He’s grieving, of course, and it’s rough. It’s really rough, as probably anybody can imagine. But he’s surrounded by family and he’s strong, and he’s gonna be okay.”

“Rest In Peace, Mom, I love you, Homer,” the actor’s 20-year-old son, Homer, said in a statement after Heche was declared legally dead on Friday.“ My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” read the statement. “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you, Homer.”

Tupper, a Canadian actor who starred alongside Heche in “Men in Trees,” had a 13-year-old son, Atlas, with her. “Love you forever,” Tupper, 57, wrote on his Instagram post’s caption with a broken heart emoji, which shared an image of the actress from Men in Trees.

Between 1997 and 2000, Heche was also in a relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“This is a sad day,” DeGeneres posted on Twitter. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.” The year after her break-up with the comedian, in September 2001, Heche recounted in her memoir “Call Me Crazy,” about her lifelong struggles with mental health and a childhood of abuse.

KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin noted that over the past two decades, Heche’s career pivoted several times. In 2017, she hosted a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Jason Ellis called “Love and Heche.”

In 2020, Heche made her way into the podcast world. She launched “Better Together” which she cohosted alongside Heather Duffy Boylston. The show was described as a way to celebrate friendship. 

She also worked in smaller films, on Broadway, and on TV shows. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago P.D.,” and “All Rise” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

People magazine reported that several of Heche’s acting projects are expected to be released posthumously.

These include “Girl in Room 13,” expected to be released on Lifetime in September, “What Remains,” scheduled to be released in 2023, and HBO Max TV series “The Idol,” created by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

In her Instagram post from earlier this year Heche stands between her sons Atlas, 13 and Homer, 20.

From KTLA:

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Celebrity News

‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

George Takei tweets ‘we lived long and prospered together’

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(Screenshot/YouTube The Smithsonian Channel)

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke barriers in a time of societal upheaval and battling for the civil rights of Black Americans. An actress, a mother and thoroughly devoted to the legions of fans of “Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died at 89.

The announcement on her Facebook page by her son read:

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Ill., in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She later turned to acting, and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Out actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the original series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in that role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke barriers between races, most famously her onscreen kiss, the first between a Black person and a white person, with castmate William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, but she also became a role model for young Black women and men inspiring them to seek out their own places in science, technology, and other human endeavors.

In numerous interviews over the years Nichols often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.

When the first series ended Nichols went on to become a spokesperson for NASA, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts.” She later reprised her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans especially in the areas of science and technology.

Formerly a NASA deputy administrator, Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an advertisement in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he recounted. The U.S. Air Force pilot would apply and later become the first African American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in Sunday afternoon on her passing in a statement issued by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.
 
A daughter of a working-class family from Illinois, she first honed her craft as an actor and singer in Chicago before touring the country and the world performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and giving life to the words of James Baldwin.
 
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.
 
Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.

Nichols son said that services will be private for family members and her closest friends.

In 2008 the actress at a news conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the motion picture “TRU LOVED,” in honor of the more than 900 students at Los Angeles’ Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s School of Social Justice who participated in the GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols speaks on LGBTQ rights:

Her fellow castmate and life long friend, openly Out actor George Takei shared his sadness on hearing of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1966. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.”

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s Radical Impact:

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Miscellaneous

Emma Corin becomes first nonbinary person featured on cover of American Vogue

The star of The Crown opened up about their identity.

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Emma Corrin Jamie Hawkesworth/Vogue

Emma Corin was announced as the cover star of the August edition of Vogue. It’s the first time a nonbinary person is featured on the cover of American Vogue.

Corin posted the cover photo and wrote, “My grin really says it all! A huge honour to be your August cover.”

In early 2021, Corin quietly came out as a queer and nonbinary, changing pronouns to “she/they” in their instagram bio. Currently Corin sticks to pronouns “they/them.”

“I feel much more seen when I’m referred to as ‘they,’ but my closest friends, they will call me ‘she,’ and I don’t mind, because I know they know me,” Corin explained during the interview with Vogue.

Corin stated that they’ve still gone on dates with various kinds of people and set no limit on who they date. “I like people,” they simply said and shrugged.

Corin also shared some of their dating experiences. “My first date with a girl, they were like, Oh! You’re a baby queer!” Corin said, “It was amazing. We actually didn’t end up seeing each other again, but she really gave me the lowdown.”

Besides, Corin was frank about their conflicting feelings towards gender and sexuality issues. “I’m working out all this complex gender and sexuality stuff. And yet, I’m seeing a guy? That feels very juxtaposed, even if I’m very happy.”

Corin is known for playing Diana on the Netflix series The Crown.

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