The bill will extend insurance to an estimated 32 million Americans currently uninsured, require larger employers to provide coverage for employees, and prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on gender or pre-existing conditions--a huge victory for people living with HIV. The bill would also limit increases in premiums by insurance companies. Anthem Blue Cross, a California insurer, increased its rates 39% earlier this month.
"We congratulate President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, and other House leaders for their relentless commitment to pushing forward this historic measure," said Janet Weinberg, Chief Operating Officer at GMHC. "We hope the Senate leadership will swiftly pass the reconciliation package and take us one step closer to the final passage of health care reform," Weinberg added. "We are especially grateful to New York City Congressmen Rangel, Engel, and Weiner for their steadfast leadership on this issue."
Unfortunately, the bill does not include the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA) that would allow states to extend Medicaid benefits to thousands of low-income people living with HIV who are presently ineligible because their HIV has not progressed enough. Additionally, the bill lacks a strong public insurance option, which would allow people with chronic illnesses to be able to access care regardless of where they live.
While thrilled at this historic development, GMHC expresses great disappointment at the actions of Tea Party protesters who shouted racist and anti-gay epithets at members of Congress and spat on one black Congressman. "Conservatives in Congress have ginned up their base with intemperate rhetoric, such as calling this bill 'socialist' and destructive to our country," said Weinberg. "We deplore the bigoted actions of some Tea Party protesters."
GMHC applauds Speaker Pelosi for last night publicly acknowledging the leadership of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, who dedicated his career to providing health care to all Americans.
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GMHC is a not-for-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based organization committed to national leadership in the fight against AIDS. We provide prevention and care services to men, women and families that are living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS in New York City. We advocate for scientific, evidence-based public health solutions for hundreds of thousands worldwide.
For more information, please visit www.gmhc.org.