For LGBT people, especially elders, there are many pressing issues to be determined in this election.
The Affordable Care Act — ObamaCare — has made health care more accessible to seniors. Free prevention screenings for cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other diseases related to aging can be diagnosed early and treated under the law. Who cares if you have access to quality, affordable health care?
The cost of prescription drugs for seniors is being reduced through changes to Medicare Part D. For many, this will save thousands of dollars annually. Who cares if you can afford life-saving medications?
The Older Americans Act is the main source of funding for the social services available for seniors. This includes senior centers, job training and placement, nutrition and meals and dozens of other services. Legislation has been introduced that specifically names LGBT seniors as a “vulnerable population.” This change would start the process of ensuring that LGBT seniors have equal access to all of the services and resources other Americans have. Who cares if you have access to services and resources that will help you age successfully?
For millions of women, health-care services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings are funded by the federal government. These screenings are provided through community health services. Who cares if you receive health care and screenings in competent, safe, welcoming and affordable settings in your community?
The money you pay into the Social Security Trust Fund is insured by the federal government. Adjustments of some kind are going to be necessary to maintain the fund. One answer is to allow private companies to manage your money. Who cares if your life savings aren’t guaranteed by the government and can be lost in the next market crash?
Medicare needs to be adjusted so that it will remain financially stable after 2024. One proposal is to let insurance companies take over Medicare. Under this plan, you would get a voucher to cover part of the cost of the premiums. There is no guarantee that the insurance would cover your pre-existing conditions or keep you covered if you get sick. Who cares if you pay more for, or lose, your coverage?
The cost of providing long-term care services is twice as much in a nursing facility as it is if you are receiving similar services in your own home. Medicaid is the primary payer of LTC services. The number of Medicaid beds in nursing facilities is limited and is unlikely to meet the demand for Boomers needing LTC. The existing facility and payment structure must be expanded to allow for more in-home care and choice. Who cares who will care for you, where you will receive that care and how you will pay for it?
There is no federal law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing or health care. Who cares if you lose your home or your job or are refused care because you aren’t straight?
Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act could result in same-sex married couples receiving more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits. This would include Social Security and veterans benefits. It would eliminate the income tax that same-sex partners have to pay when they receive domestic-partner benefits from their employers. In some states, it would end inheritance taxes on assets inherited from a deceased partner. Who cares if you have the same rights and benefits as other Americans?
In 32 states, legislation or rules have been introduced that would make it more difficult for seniors to vote. This includes reduced voting hours and locations and new forms of identification. Who cares if your voting rights are taken away?
It is likely that the next president will nominate one or more justices to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court banned segregated schools in 1954. The Supreme Court made it legal for people of different races to marry in 1967. In 1973, the court decided that women could choose to have an abortion. The Supreme Court helped determine the outcome of the presidential election in 2000. In 2003, the Supreme Court made it legal for gay people to have sex. Who cares who selects the jurists who can determine your rights and freedoms?
Don’t care about this election? Then don’t vote. But when you realize what you’ve lost because you chose not to exercise your right, your responsibility and the privilege to vote that you do have as an LGBT American, don’t blame anyone but yourself.
Ed Bomba is communications chair of the LGBT Elder Initiative. The LGBTEI fosters and advocates for services and resources that are competent, culturally sensitive, inclusive and responsive to the needs of LGBT older adults. To comment on this article, suggest topics for future articles or for more information, visit www.lgbtei.org or call 267-546-3448 and watch for “Gettin’ On” each month in PGN.