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The Other SCOTUS Case We Should Care About



Healthcare.gov_aapiThere is another Supreme Court case that matters to the LGBT community. Last week, the justices met to hear arguments in King v. Burwell, and to decide, once again, the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Health reform may not seem like an equality issue, but it is. We are more likely to benefit from the law because we’re more likely to be low-income, uninsured, and discriminated against in the health care system. But the Affordable Care Act is already working for our community by addressing these gaps: between 2013 and 2014, the uninsured rate for low- and middle-income LGBT people fell from 34 percent to 26 percent. And, of those who purchased coverage through the marketplace, 48 percent are paying less than $100/month in premiums. Although LGBT people are still disproportionately likely to be uninsured, the law is having a significant positive impact—just ask our friends Aurora in Houston or Robbie in Nashville.

So what is at issue in King v. Burwell? The petitioners—vocal opponents of the Affordable Care Act—claim that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) misinterpreted a four-word phrase in the Affordable Care Act to incorrectly offer health insurance subsidies to eligible Americans in every state. They claim that subsidies should only be available to people purchasing coverage through a marketplace “established by the state.” Since 34 states are relying on the federal government to operate their marketplaces, the petitioners argue that subsidies should not be available in those states. If they succeed, millions of people—including an estimated three-quarters of a million LGBT people, according to data analyzed by the Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute—will lose access to financial assistance that can help them afford health insurance. As a result, a decision in King v. Burwell that eliminates these subsidies has the potential to wreak havoc on the lives of millions of newly insured Americans and destabilize state insurance markets across the country.

We’ll discuss the arguments, what to expect, and the impact of the decision AFTER THE JUMP...

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Illinois Obamacare Ad Features Married Gay Couple: VIDEO

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An ad for GetCoveredIllinois.gov features a married gay couple, Jake and Allen, talking about the benefits of signing up for affordable coverage.

Watch the 30-second spot where the duo explains how they got covered and its benefits for both of them as a married couple, AFTER THE JUMP...

[h/t joe.my.god]

Continue reading "Illinois Obamacare Ad Features Married Gay Couple: VIDEO" »

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Hobby Lobby In Narrow Decision

HobbyThe U.S. Supreme Court today ruled today that businesses can object on religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage to its employees as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, The Chicago Tribune reports. The decision came down to a 5-4 vote, with the justices dividing along ideological lines:

In a majority opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court said the ruling applies only to the birth control mandate and does not mean companies would necessarily succeed if they made similar claims to other insurance requirements, such as vaccinations and drug transfusions.

In the majority opinion, Alito indicated that employees could still be able to obtain the birth control coverage via an accommodation to the mandate that the Obama administration has already introduced for religious-affiliated nonprofits. The accommodation allows health insurance companies to provide the coverage without the employer being involved in the process.

Under the accommodation, eligible non-profits must provide a "self certification", described by one lower court judge as a "permission slip" authorizing insurance companies to provide the coverage. The accommodation is itself the subject of a separate legal challenge.

As Towleroad contributor Lisa Keen previously pointed out, The Hobby Lobby case is of particular concern from an LGBT perspective because some have believed that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could later be used by employers seeking exemptions on religious grounds from providing health benefits to LGBT employees “such as coverage for the same-sex spouses or partners of employees, reproductive services for lesbian couples, testing and treatment for men at risk of HIV infection, [and] transgender treatment for people with gender dysphoria.” 

Stay tuned for Towleroad legal analyst Ari Ezra Waldman’s in-depth analysis of the Hobby Lobby ruling later today.

You can find previous coverage from Ari on Hobby Lobby and why this ruling matters HERE and HERE

(Image via Twitter)

Obamacare, Religious Exemptions, and Gay Rights: Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court Today


SupremesToday, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case about Obamacare. The last time that happened, the Court determined by a bare 5-4 majority that the so-called individual mandate, the requirement that everyone has to buy health insurance or pay a tax, was constitutional. Now, the Court is considering whether corporations can refuse to provide insurance plans that include contraception if doing so would violate the religious beliefs of those corporations' owners.

This matters, not just to those of us in need of health care and not just to those of us who work for companies run by religious people. It matters to all LGBT Americans because the scope of this particular religious exemption could affect the scopes of other religious exemptions.

The cases -- Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius -- will determine the breadth of the religious exemption from Obamacare. Unfortunately, the pretext of religious freedom has gained much traction of late in justifying continued discrimination. And this Court's conservative majority has set itself up to strike a blow against equality.

AFTER THE JUMP, I will construct the argument I expect the Court's conservatives will use to expand the religious exemption. I will show how that argument is deeply flawed. And then I will show how dangerous it is for the LGBT community.

Continue reading "Obamacare, Religious Exemptions, and Gay Rights: Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court Today" »

U.S. Dept. Of Health: Some U.S. Health Insurances Must Cover Same-Sex Couples By 2015

This past Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' health care blog published a post by Matthew Heinz MD — Director of Provider & LGBT Outreach — stating that by 2015 any insurance companies offering coverage to opposite-sex spouses must also do the same for same-sex spouses:

HealthcaregovToday, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.

This will undoubtedly clear up cases like the ones in which Blue Cross and Anthem denied coverage for same-sex couples under the ambiguous provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Although according to HuffPo Gay Voices, this only applies to "Qualified Health Plans... that meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act and are certified by the state or federal exchange where it is purchased."

Gay Couple Files Federal Suit in Ohio After Being Denied Coverage Under Obamacare

Earlier this week a gay couple in Ohio filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government and state of Ohio after being denied coverage under Obamacare, Reuters reports:

OhioThe plaintiffs, Alfred Cowger and Anthony Wesley of Gates Mills, Ohio, have been together since 1986 and were married in New York state in 2012, six years after adopting a daughter, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Ohio...

...After initially being unable to enroll in Obamacare because of glitches involving the troubled rollout of the healthcare.gov website, they said in the suit that they were assured by Anthem they could remain under its policy after December 2013, although premiums would increase by about 20 percent.

But in November, according to the suit, Cowger said he received a letter from Anthem stating their policy "was to be terminated because it was not in compliance with the ACA."

A new family policy with Anthem would cost about twice their existing one, or about half the family's joint income, and not be eligible for tax credits under Obamacare.

Full story here.


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