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Congress Abandons LGBT Health Care Provisions. HRC Is ‘Deeply Disappointed’

In addition to lobbying federal lawmakers about military service, marriage, and workplace discrimination, the Human Rights Campaign tells us that it’s active in shaping health care legislation. On its website, the organization says “HRC is broadening its scope to include a wider variety of issues such as lesbian health, healthcare discrimination and the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI).” So now that the House Rules Committee released the bill it’ll vote on to match up with the Senate’s health care bill — which is absent any LGBT-specific provisions — surely HRC must be devastated that, once again, its efforts at influencing lawmakers is a complete fail?

Well not “devastated.” Just “deeply disappointed.” In the latest series of tail-between-its-legs admissions, HRC alerts us that “after months of lobbying for their inclusion, important measures specifically addressing the needs of LGBT people and people with HIV – ending the unfair taxation of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits, permitting states to offer early HIV treatment under Medicaid, collecting critical health data on LGBT people and addressing discrimination in health care – are not a part of this bill. … HRC has lobbied for our inclusion in health care reform since the process began last spring, both on the Hill and at the White House, working with key leaders like Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), as well as other LGBT and progressive organizations. We have reached out to our members to generate grassroots support in targeted states and districts and engaged grasstops to influence particular Members and Senators.”

But hey, look on the bright side of what queer Americans will get with Sunday’s vote on the bill: “While we are saddened that the House has abandoned provisions that would make care more accessible and affordable to our community, we recognize that the health reform measure will still help all Americans, including LGBT people.” This is true: LGBTs with cancer and AIDS and diabetes who are regularly refused healthcare coverage because of “pre-existing conditions” should, technically, have an easier time securing coverage. But by its own admission, the Human Rights Campaign’s multi-million dollar budget failed the community it claims to represent.

Something tells us that Get Equal is going to have a new fight on its hands — picking up the mobilization slack that HRC simply cannot manage.

Is HRC entirely to blame for these woes? Of course not — for the same reasons it wouldn’t be able to take full credit if LGBT-specific provisions were included. It’s an enormous and complex task, this legislation-passing stuff, and pinning all your disappointment on HRC isn’t fair. There are countless national and regional organizations with their own set of priorities, lobbying their own representatives to include and exclude various interests. Everyone shares some of the responsibility, including gay lawmakers like Reps. Baldwin, Jared Polis, and Barney Frank (and, really, all lawmakers), who should be using their single vote to correct healthcare disparities.

What is fair, however, is to continue holding HRC accountable for — once again — claiming to represent the entire LGBT community, and to work on their behalf, only to have nothing to show for it. There are very good people at HRC. Some of them are our friends. But something isn’t working here. And it hasn’t been working for years.