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Tuesday Speed Read: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Wendy Davis, Massachusetts, Medicare

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

CrabbWISCONSIN MARRIAGES CONTINUE:

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb denied a motion Monday from the Wisconsin attorney general for a stay in her June 6 ruling that the state ban on same-sex couples marrying is unconstitutional. But in an odd twist, Crabb told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “I never said anything about whether any county clerk could go forward and issue a marriage license. That hasn't been decided." Crabb’s June 6 decision in Wolf v. Walker indicated she would issue an order later this month concerning enforcement of her ruling. But clerks in about half the counties around Wisconsin began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last Friday. The next hearing for the case is June 19.

GaffneyLONE CLERK SEEKS PENNSYLVANIA APPEAL:

Taking a cue from a county clerk in Virginia, a county clerk in Pennsylvania petitioned a federal court judge Friday to allow her to appeal the judge’s decision striking the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. Judge John Jones III issued his opinion in Whitewood v. Wolf on May 20, and Republican Governor Tom Corbett said he would not appeal. Private attorneys filed both the motion to intervene and a motion to stay Jones’ ruling on behalf of Theresa Santai-Gaffney, register of wills for Schuylkill County.

CorbettMAJORITY AGREES ON CORBETT NON-APPEAL:

A poll showed that 56 percent of 835 Pennsylvania registered voters agreed with Republican Governor Tom Corbett’s decision not to appeal a federal district court opinion striking down the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. The poll, by Public Policy Polling, was conducted May 30 to June 1, just one week after Corbett announced he would not appeal the decision. According to realclearpolitics.com, Corbett has been trailing his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by more than 20 points in various polls. Wolf’s campaign website prominently touts his support for marriage equality.

2_davisWENDY DAVIS WOULD SIGN EXECUTIVE ORDER:

Texas’ Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis told reporter John Wright in the Observer last week that she would be willing to sign an executive order to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, though she suggested the governor’s power to implement such an order is fairly limited. Davis has been running about 12 points behind Republican attorney general Greg Abbott in the race, according to realclearpolitics.com.

HealeyMASSACHUSETTS AG POLL MOSTLY UNDECIDED:

Lesbian attorney Maura Healey held a three-point lead over former state Senator Warren Tolman in a recent poll for the Massachusetts Democratic primary for attorney general. The June 4-7 Suffolk University poll surveyed 450 likely primary voters and had a plus-or-minus 3.5 margin of error.  It showed Healey, in her first electoral run, with 21 percent, and Tolman with 18 percent. But the vast majority of respondents, 59 percent, said they were “undecided.” Two percent refused to answer. Male voters are split between the two; but women voters are leaning Healey.

NO MORE AUTOMATIC DENIALS:

MedicareAn administrative appeals board at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruled recently that automatic denial of Medicare coverage for transsexual surgery as a treatment “is not valid under the ‘reasonableness standard’.” The ruling means transgender people seeking treatment for gender dysphoria will be able to have their applications for coverage considered “just like anyone seeking coverage for any other medical treatment,” noted a joint statement from GLAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU. The HHS Departmental Appeals Board decision was made in an appeal from an “aggrieved party.” ABC News identified the person as a 74-year-old Army veteran who said she hopes to spend the rest of her life “in congruence and not distress.”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Stephen Colbert Worried About the New Gender Reassignment Medicare Rules: VIDEO

Trans_colbert

"I know I'm cis hetero Nazi scum. I accept your judgment," says Stephen Colbert in a new segment about recent groundbreaking changes to Medicare which now cover gender reassignment surgeries.

Colbert worries that because of the new rules, he'll now have to accept ugly people:

"The idea of nana and pepaw playing Mr. Potato Head downtown is that it violates the tacit agreement we have reached with the transgender community. I agree to be totally cool with it — which I clearly am, which TIME magazine clearly is, which all the people lobbying for [Carmen Carrera] to be a Victoria's Secret clearly are — as long as you are hot. But now you want me to accept unattractive transgender people? Where does it end? Will I have to accept unattractive non-transgender people? What am I made of? Humanity?"

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Stephen Colbert Worried About the New Gender Reassignment Medicare Rules: VIDEO" »


HHS Board Announces Medicare Will Now Cover Gender Reassignment Surgeries

In a groundbreaking decision, a panel of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday that it was lifting the ban on Medicare coverage for gender reassignment surgeries, the AP reports:

MallonRuling in favor of a 74-year-old Army veteran whose request to have Medicare pay for her genital reconstruction was denied two years ago, the agency's Departmental Appeals Board ruled that a three-decade-old HHS rule excluding such surgeries from the procedures covered by the national health program for the elderly and disabled was unjustified.

"Sometimes I am asked aren't I too old to have surgery. My answer is how old is too old?" the veteran, Denee Mallon, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said in an email interview before the board issued its decision. "When people ask if I am too old, it feels like they are implying that it's a 'waste of money' to operate at my age. But I could have an active life ahead of me for another 20 years. And I want to spend those years in congruence and not distress."

More at the AP...

Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reacted to the announcement:

"The dominos of discrimination against transgender people are falling rapidly. Today’s ruling that transgender Medicare patients should have access to the medically necessary care their doctors prescribe, including transition-related surgeries, is a truly historic victory in the long struggle for full and equal access to medically necessary health care for transgender people. We know all too well the financial and social barriers transgender people experience in accessing the care they need, including a majority of transgender people being excluded from fully-inclusive medical coverage because of their gender identity. 

“While this is just the latest and one of the most significant wins we’ve seen out of the Obama administration, we know there is more to come. Having an independent medical review board determine that transgender people deserve access to the medical care their doctor recommends affirms what we already know – that transition-related care bans are designed to discriminate against an already marginalized group of people. We commend the Obama administration for its efforts and look forward to continuing the work of removing transition-related care exclusions from all health policies across the country.”

(image via twitter)


What The Death Of DOMA Means For Medicare

SiegelkopelovToday has already seen the unprecedented advancement of rights for same-sex married couples with the U.S. Department of Treasury's decision to extend tax benefits to same-sex married couples, regardless of the state in which they live. This is, or course, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is following suit, and has released guidelines for what the end of DOMA means for Medicare.

Same-sex married couples will now have access to nursing home care through their Medicare-funded private insurance, a benefit that has always been available to opposite-sex married couples. According to the Washington Blade, in the days before DOMA was struck down:

"Seniors with Medicare Advantage previously may have had to choose between receiving coverage in a nursing home away from their same-sex spouse or disenrolling from their plan to be with their loved one. The latter option would mean paying more out of pocket for care."

Thankfully, those days are now over. Danielle Moon, director of the Medicare Drug & Health Plan Contract Administration Group, lays out The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services' new post-DOMA interpretation of the term "spouse":

"In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, CMS believes it would be impermissible to interpret the term ‘spouse,’ as used in section 1852(l)(4)(A)(iii), to exclude individuals who are in a legally valid same-sex marriage sanctioned by a state, territorial or foreign government...MA organizations therefore are required, effective immediately, to cover services in a SNF in which a validly married same sex spouse resides to the extent that they would be required to cover the services if an opposite sex spouse resided in the SNF."

Fed-dept-of-health-and-human-servicesIn a news statement accompanying the new guidelines, Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius noted that this new guideline is the first of many more that will be on the way:

“HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs. Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.”

Better yet, Moon has clarified that the new guideline applies to couples, across the country, even if they live in a state that does not yet recognize marriage equality:

“The foregoing analysis applies to individuals of the same sex who are domiciled in a state or territory that recognizes their relationship as a marriage. It also applies to individuals of the same sex who were legally married in a state or other jurisdiction without regard to whether they are domiciled in a state or territory that recognizes their relationship as a marriage.”

You can read the full release, via the Washington Blade, HERE.


FDA Approves Truvada Which Claims to Reduce Risk of HIV Infection: VIDEO

Fauci

The FDA today approved  Gilead Sciences' pill Truvada as a preventive measure for people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity, the AP reports:

TruvadaPublic health advocates say the approval could help slow the spread of HIV, which has held steady at about 50,000 new infections per year for the past 15 years.

An estimated 1.2 million Americans have HIV, which develops into AIDS unless treated with antiviral drugs. An estimated 240,000 HIV carriers remain unaware of their status.

Gilead Sciences has marketed Truvada, which can cost up to $14,000 a year, since 2004 as a treatment for people who are already infected with the virus.

Writes the FDA in a press release:

As part of PrEP, HIV-uninfected individuals who are at high risk will need to take Truvada daily to lower their chances of becoming infected with HIV should they be exposed to the virus. Again, PrEP indication means Truvada is approved for use as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that includes other prevention methods, such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counseling, and regular HIV testing.

As a part of this action, FDA is strengthening Truvada's Boxed Warning to alert health care professionals and uninfected individuals that Truvada for PrEP must only be used by individuals who are confirmed to be HIV-negative prior to prescribing the drug and at least every three months during use to reduce the risk of development of resistant HIV-1 variants. The drug is contraindicated for PrEP in individuals with unknown or positive HIV status.

Watch Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases discuss the drug with PBS Newshour's Ray Suarez, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "FDA Approves Truvada Which Claims to Reduce Risk of HIV Infection: VIDEO" »


Medicare Steps Up Enforcement of Visitation and Representation Rights for Gay Partners in Hospitals

Medicare has stepped up enforcement of rules finalized last year regarding visitation and representation rights for same-sex partners in hospitals.

Medicare From the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidance to support enforcement of rules that protect hospital patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, including a visitor who is a same-sex domestic partner. These rules, finalized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in November, apply to all hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.  The guidance also supports enforcement of the right of patients to designate the person of their choice, including a same-sex partner, to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated.

The rules updated the Conditions of Participation (CoPs), which are the health and safety standards all Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and critical access hospitals must meet, and apply to all patients of those hospitals even if they are not on Medicare or Medicaid.  Among other things, the CoPs require hospitals to explain to all patients their right to choose who may visit them during their inpatient stay, regardless of whether the visitor is a family member, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), or another type of visitor, as well as their right to withdraw such consent to visitation at any time. 

Existing CoPs also protect the rights of hospital patients to have representatives who can act on their behalf.  HHS has updated the guidance for these rules to emphasize that hospitals should give deference to patients’ wishes concerning their representatives, whether expressed in writing, orally, or through other evidence, unless prohibited by state law.  The guidance issued today is intended to make it easier for family members, including a same-sex domestic partner, to make informed care decisions for loved ones who have become incapacitated.

Sebelius According to HHS, a letter was sent to State Survey Agencies, which conduct on-site inspections of hospitals on behalf of CMS, directing them to be aware of the guidance.

Said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: "Couples take a vow to be with each other in sickness and in health and it is unacceptable that, in the past, some same-sex partners were denied the right to visit their loved ones in times of need. We are releasing guidance for enforcing new rules that give all patients, including those with same-sex partners, the right to choose who can visit them in the hospital as well as enhancing existing guidance regarding the right to choose who will help make medical decisions on their behalf.”


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