Public option in healthcare would not be discriminatory

Here are the facts. Currently, some 9,390 U.S. employers, employing more than 25 percent of Americans, offer domestic partner health benefits. Under America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, all Americans who have employer-provided health insurance, including those in the LGBT community with domestic partner benefits, will continue to have the choice of participating in those programs.

The reforms now proposed will not in any way deny domestic partners the option of participating in their partner’s current employer provided healthcare coverage.  

Nearly three-quarters of LGBT Americans do not have domestic partner health coverage, however. Both public and private sector efforts are underway to expand domestic partner benefits coverage. In fact, we sponsor legislation that would extend such benefits to federal employees, and hope that the author of the above-referenced column and his Republican organization will support our effort to bring our government up to the standards established by the majority of Fortune 500 companies. As of this writing, only one Republican has joined the 118 Democrats who co-sponsor this legislation.

In 2008, 13.2 percent of Americans were officially counted as poor by the Census Bureau. Earlier this year, the Williams Institute released an important study on poverty in the LGBT community. They found that poverty among lesbians and bisexual women exceeded that of heterosexual women; and poverty among gay men was equal to that of heterosexual men. For gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, the inability to afford quality health insurance is as real as it is for others throughout our country.

No one, gay or straight, will be “forced by federal mandate into government-run healthcare.” Giving Americans the choice of a public option will mean that every American, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation will have access to affordable, quality, healthcare coverage.

Those who are among the tens of millions of Americans who lack any health insurance, or who can only afford inadequate coverage, will, with real reform, finally have meaningful coverage and real choice in their health insurance.

In addition to greater coverage and affordability provisions, there is new emphasis in this legislation on studying, understanding, and combating disparities in healthcare access and outcomes that will also benefit LGBT individuals.

After six decades of debate, our nation is now presented with the opportunity to address our nation’s growing healthcare crisis. Those whose vision includes choice in healthcare coverage will make it a reality. Sadly, until now, opponents have only resorted to propagating myths and spreading false information with the goal of hiding the truth behind a GOP banner emblazoned with the words, “Just say no.” All Americans, including LGBT Americans, deserve better.


Rangel shouldn’t be judged prematurely

From Herbert Pardes, president and CEO, New York-Presbyterian Hospital

(Regarding article, “CBC members rally around embattled Chairman Rangel,” Sept. 11.) For 40 years, working men and women have had a champion in Congress. His name is Charles Rangel.

Rep. Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) legislative track record over the years reads like a roadmap of the path to achieving a middle-class life. In the 1970s he authored the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives incentives to employers to hire low-income youth and the developmentally disabled, among others who were thought incapable of work. More than 4.5 million people have found jobs as a result of this act. As the author and champion of the National Empowerment Zone program, Rangel has provided $3.5 billion for urban and rural development. This program, implemented in the 1990s, targets investment where it is most needed to bring about jobs and commerce. Last year in response to the housing crisis, Rangel wrote and passed legislation providing tax relief to homeowners in danger of losing their homes, and encouraged housing production through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program that led to development in communities at the margin of emerging from poverty into the middle class.

Since Rangel became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in 2006 he has been a bipartisan beacon, bringing Republicans and Democrats together to pass free trade agreements and farm policy (he has no agricultural constituency but was viewed as an honest broker by all sides). Most recently Rangel passed a significant health reform bill from his committee, and that was a great act of leadership.  Rangel is indispensable if we are going to move forward on health reform.

The House Ethics Committee is currently examining his amended financial statements. People make mistakes all the time; Rangel found them on his own, reported them and paid the fine of his own volition. Media judgment should be held in abeyance while a process plays out that would not be a story except that it happened to the chairman of Ways and Means.

Rangel has spent his career making sure working Americans get a fair shake. He deserves the same.

New York