I was disappointed when I read the op-ed entitled, "Expanding government-run health insurance means expanding discrimination against gays," by GOProud's Jimmy LaSalvia. According to polling data, the majority of Americans support a public option in health care reform, and there's no evidence LGBT Americans are different. Publishing a piece that argues that a public option will hurt LGBT Americans (or "gays," as Mr. LaSalvia puts it) from a fringe member of the community, which admonishes the LGBT "left" for supporting a measure popular with America's centrists, liberals, and leftists, misrepresents the material needs of the LGBT population.
Mr. LaSalvia's main objection to a public option is that, with the law that forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples (DOMA), gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in committed relationships won't be recognized as such when it comes to enrollment in the public option. That fact is true, and it's wrong and discriminatory. But it's not a reason to oppose the public option; it's a reason to support the repeal of DOMA or a single-payer health care system that recognizes all people as individuals, neither of which the GOP will do.
The public option will be an unadulterated positive for LGBT Americans. Currently, neither the federal government nor most private business's insurers cover the same-sex partners of their employees, yet Mr. LaSalvia seems to have no problem with rampant homophobic discrimination in the status quo. He says that the few same-sex partners who are currently covered by their private insurers as a family unit "will find no such options when it comes to government-run healthcare." That's true, but it's deceptively worded - no one has been discussing a public option that would eliminate private, employment-based insurance. It's just what it's name says it is, an "option," and the few gay, lesbian, and bisexual people with good coverage can keep their private insurance if any of the current public option proposals become law.
Mr. LaSalvia further dips into hyperbole when he says, "low-income gay and lesbian families, who can't afford private insurance and will be forced by federal mandate into government-run healthcare, will be hit the hardest." I would be hard-pressed to describe people getting health care as "hard hit," but Mr. LaSalvia doesn't seem to appreciate that those low-income gay and lesbian families are hard hit in the status quo since they have to go without medical care and doctors' check ups until they end up in the emergency room. Around 62% of bankruptcies in America are related to medical expenses (and most of those bankruptcies coming from people who have private insurance). It stands to reason that, with rampant job discrimination that results LGBT people being more likely to live in poverty than heterosexuals, LGBT Americans suffer more than straight people from the current health care system. The public option also serves as a cost-cutting measure. A federal mandate to buy insurance from a private company (as the Senate Finance Committee proposed) would cost even more and cover less than a government-run option.
LGBT Americans have much more need for a public option than straight Americans do, as Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke about earlier this week. Our long history with AIDS has shown us that the private health care system doesn't work for LGBT Americans - people with HIV are regularly denied coverage because of their "pre-existing condition. Promoting an individual market for health care, as Mr. LaSalvia proposes, would only increase the power private insurers have to deny individuals coverage.
47% of transgender Americans lost their jobs, were denied a promotion, or denied a job because they transitioned. Private insurers consistently discriminate against minorities, and yet Mr. LaSalvia is suggesting that their health insurers be allowed to bypass state-level antidiscrimination laws by moving across state lines to the state least willing to regulate them.
An individual market reduces the buyer's bargaining power. Even repealing DOMA wouldn't help a lesbian stay-at-home mom whose partner can't afford insurance in the private market. A refundable tax credit without cost-control measures like the public option, would only encourage private insurers to increase premiums, leaving many families uninsured.
Mr. LaSalvia represents the fringe of both the LGBT community and the Republican Party, and his arguments aren't persuasive reasons to oppose the public option. LGBT people often stress that we're the same as other Americans, and the current health care system is failing us just as it is failing straight America.
The Bilerico Project