This last few weeks have been dizzying for many of us. For now, we can breathe a sigh of relief that the latest efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have stalled.
In the early hours of July 28, the Senate voted down – 51 to 49 – what was known as the “skinny repeal” bill. This bill was introduced at about 10 p.m. the night earlier and was the latest in a series of efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act and dismantle our country’s healthcare safety net with it. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined with Democrats to oppose the measure.
The bill would have repealed the individual mandate, delayed the employer mandate until 2025, delayed the implementation of the medical device tax until 2021, and defunded Planned Parenthood for one year.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the so-called “skinny repeal” would have reduced spending by $178 million and left 16 million fewer people without health insurance by the end of the decade. Quite poetically, the vote took place on the 52nd anniversary of the Senate’s vote to create Medicare and Medicaid.
The HIV, LGBTQ and healthcare advocacy communities in which Callen-Lorde proudly stands have been fighting hard to preserve and strengthen our nation’s healthcare infrastructure. Our lives, the lives of our patients and communities are at stake. Several studies have found that the Affordable Care Act legislation has increased insurance coverage for the LGBTQ population. The Williams Institute recently estimated that nearly 1,000,000 LGBTQ Americans would become uninsured if some of the initial ‘repeal and replace’ proposals had been successful. We know also that Medicaid is the heart and health of our communities, with such a high prevalence of poverty among LGBTQ individuals – compared to our heterosexual and cisgender counterparts – and especially among transgender people and LGBTQ people of color. It’s also a critical means of healthcare access for many people living with HIV.
Regrettably, this health care victory (for now) and long fought battle comes on the heels of two frustrating and infuriating setbacks for our communities. Last week, the President announced via Twitter that he plans to ban transgender people from serving in the military, citing that the US military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail.” As if that was not enough, the Justice Department filed a brief stating that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
It’s apparent that the health and well-being our communities is as much about equal access to comprehensive, culturally-competent healthcare as it is about access to affordable housing, employment, food – free of stigma, discrimination and violence. So, while we’re celebrating one victory we will keep fighting for our true liberation.