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President Barack Obama's proposed health care measure presented Monday falls short of many gay-specific provisions featured in a House bill passed in November, but stresses the importance of studying health disparities for gays and lesbians in federal studies.
Tracking the Senate version of the bill that was passed in December, Obama's blueprint does not currently include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to Keen News Service (the full article is available here). Gay employees would still face additional taxes for having partners covered under their employers' health insurance plans. The federal government currently treats partner health benefits as taxable income.
Wisconsin representative Tammy Baldwin, who has championed LGBT rights as integral to any meaningful reform of the health care system, called Obama's proposal "an important step forward" but added that the president's measure "is not the final word."
Obama's proposal includes LGBT-specific language for data collection in health studies, however. Gay health advocates have long lobbied for such data in federal studies, which would help to explain whether gays and lesbians are at higher risk for certain diseases.
In a January interview with Advocate.com, Rebecca Fox, director of the National Coalition for LGBT Health, said the House bill had addressed many of her organization's long-term goals, including the dismantling of preexisting condition exclusions, but she stressed the importance of LGBT data inclusion in reforms. "This is the first time that federal legislators have recognized the health disparities of our community," Fox said.
Republican and Democratic leaders are scheduled to meet with Obama Thursday for a televised session on health care reform.
The White House estimated the cost its overhaul proposal at $950 billion over the next 10 years.