tiny dancer

Something I haven’t been, but should have been talking about more frequently is the health care reform. As many (hopefully all!) of you know, Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) passed in the House on November 8th, 220 to 215, with a single Republican vote (you can read more about this in the LA Times article here). What does this mean? Well, a lot and again, almost nothing. The Senate still needs to pass their version of a health care bill, then the two bills go to committee, and really we’ll see what remains at that point. But currently the House bill, remaining as is, will:

  • Expand Medicaid “to reach a wider range of poor households up to 150% of the federal poverty level. 36M additional Americans will now be eligible for Medicaid.”
  • Bar discrimination in health care on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Acknowledge LGBTQ Americans are a population likely to “experience significant gaps in disease, health outcomes, or access to health care.” This will hopefully ensure that LGBTQ people are included in future data collection, and that grant programs will focus on their specific health needs.
  • End the “unfair practice of taxing employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, allowing thousands upon thousands of LGBT people to obtain domestic partner health benefits for their partners and families without having to pay a tax penalty through the nose.”
  • Allow states to cover early HIV treatment under their Medicaid programs. (Currently, states are only allowed to use Medicaid money for patients with full-blown AIDS.) and,
  • Fund comprehensive sex-ed programs.

Taken kindly from feministing.com

Wee! Except, of course the Stupak Amendment:

The amendment by Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) would restrict only the new insurance marketplace (a.k.a. the “exchange”) that the bill would create for uninsured individuals and small businesses. It would have no direct effect on the group insurance policies that cover many American workers and their families. Whether it would have an indirect effect on those policies, however, is an open question. Feel free to offer your speculation in the comment section below.

Specifically, the Stupak amendment would prohibit federal dollars from being used to buy any policy offered through the exchange that covered abortions other than those related to rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life. It also would require insurers that offered elective abortion coverage through the exchange to also offer policies “identical in every respect” except that they did not cover such abortions.

The main effects of the amendment would be to stop anyone receiving a federal subsidy from buying a comprehensive health insurance policy that covered elective abortions, and to bar the proposed government-run insurance plan (a.k.a. the “public option”) from covering such procedures. The amendment would allow insurers to offer “supplemental” policies that covered abortions, but their customers could not use federal subsidies to buy them.

Prior to the Stupak amendment, the House bill would have required insurers to jump through some accounting hoops to segregate the money collected for coverage that was mandated by the bill — and eligible for subsidies — from coverage for elective abortions. But abortion opponents argued that this arrangement didn’t go far enough. Money is fungible, after all, and making the mandatory coverage more affordable with subsidies would also make any additional coverage more affordable.

The same argument applies to the Stupak amendment. The Stupak language would require women seeking coverage of elective abortions through the exchange to sign up for a separate policy, potentially (but not necessarily) forcing them to spend more for the two than they would have spent on a single plan that included the coverage. Of course, their ability to afford the supplemental coverage would be greatly enhanced by the federal subsidies that shrink the cost of the main plan.

taken from the LA Times

What does this all mean? It means a lot of things. This bill is both progressive and restrictive and can do immense things (both beneficial and negative):

  • Federal law would for the first time require insurance companies to cover all Americans, regardless of their health status, and would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people who become sick.
  • Individuals would be required to buy insurance. And large employers would have to provide employees with health benefits or face a penalty.
  • The bill would open the nation’s 44-year-old Medicaid insurance program for the poor to all Americans making less than 150% of the federal poverty line — $16,245 for an individual or $33,075 for a family of four.
  • The government would also create new insurance marketplaces for millions of Americans who do not get coverage through work.
  • Commercial insurers, as well as the government, would offer plans in these marketplaces, or exchanges, and be required to provide a minimum set of benefits, including mental health services, maternity care and preventive care.

Taken from the LA Times

I don’t know what to think, but as 23 looms nearer (April 11th, by the by), I can see nothing other than the event that my whole life has been surrounded by. At 23 I get kicked off of my health care, and at 23 a life of tiring and expensive advocacy begins. I go to COBRA, the unemployment insurance ($500/month), and barring me getting a job in the social services field with decent health care, I’ll go into the HIPAA high risk health pool ($14,000 a year) and hope that my parents and I can afford to live like that (and that’s just the deductible!) But if this passes, and it passes with some form of clarity and decent and argumentative change…maybe. Maybe I won’t be living a life of fear and losing my health insurance anymore. I hate the idea of women’s reproductive rights as a bargaining chip, as an idea that’s thrown out the window when things get tough, but tears come to my eyes at the idea of freedom; freedom from a life where the only goal is to get a job, and the only want is to survive. I only want to be able to pay for my right to live; I just don’t feel like that’s too much to ask for.

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