For LGBT Americans’ health, public option beats status quo

Mr. LaSalvia’s main objection to a public option is that, with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — the law that forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples — gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in committed relationships won’t be recognized as such when it comes to enrollment in the public option. That 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 healthcare system that recognizes all people as individuals, neither of which the GOP will do.

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The public option will be an unadulterated positive for LGBT Americans. Neither the federal government nor most private businesses’ 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.

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 healthcare 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’ checkups until they end up in the emergency room.

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.

Our long history with AIDS has shown us that the private healthcare 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 healthcare, as Mr. LaSalvia proposes, would only increase the power private insurers have to deny individuals coverage.

Private insurers consistently discriminate against minorities, and yet Mr. LaSalvia suggests that their health insurers be allowed to bypass state-level anti-discrimination laws by moving across state lines to the state least willing to regulate them.

The writer with the U.S.-based Bilerico Project lives in Paris, France.