Health Care Reform Could Make Committed Gay Couples A Family

Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress focused on how the House's health care reform bill should help the GLBT community. While health reform does not directly address many GLBT issues, it does try to fix many of the problems with our current system that do strongly disadvantage the community. For example, the House bill ends the unfair tax treatment of employer-provided domestic partner health benefits and increases Medicaid coverage for early HIV treatment. It is also important to remember our employer-based system strongly relies on people getting coverage through work or from their spouse's employer. That is not always an option for committed same-sex couples, making it more likely that one partner is uninsured.

The House bill could, in theory, do something else important for the community. It gives the Secretary of HHS, through the new Commissioner, the power to make committed same-sex couples a family, in a purely limited legal sense. According to the bill it defines a family as:
FAMILY- The term `family' means an individual and includes the individual's dependents.

And it defines a dependent as:
DEPENDENT- The term `dependent' has the meaning given such term by the Commissioner and includes a spouse.

That gives the Commissioner a lot of latitude to define the term "family." At least in matters related to health care reform and the new health insurance exchange, the Commissioner should have the legal authority to classify same sex partnerships as a family.

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