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Gay rights group rallies to defend health care act

The gay rights group Lambda Legal has organized more than 130 organizations in support of its friend-of-the-court brief defending the Affordable Care Act in a High Court dispute.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in several cases challenging the constitutionality of the law the week of March 26.

“The list of supporters for our brief urging the Court to uphold the ACA continues to grow because of the law’s enormous potential to impact the domestic AIDS epidemic,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV project director for Lambda Legal. The organization has for decades been at the forefront of the legal battles for LGBT civil rights, as well as the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.

“By signing on to the statement of support, organizations across the nation have affirmed the demonstrable effect the ACA will have on reducing rates of transmission and increasing prevention education, early detection, and access to quality care for everyone living with HIV,” Schoettes said.

In January, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief highlighting the link between the ACA and the ability to curtail the domestic AIDS epidemic.

The brief supports the federal government’s position that the ACA’s minimum coverage requirement – also known as the individual mandate – is constitutional under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.

In March 2010, the ACA was signed into law, reforming aspects of the private health insurance industry and expanding access to health insurance for millions of Americans. The constitutionality of the law was immediately challenged in federal court in multiple jurisdictions.

The organizations that have signed on to Lambda’s brief include AIDS Interfaith Network, National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, National Black Women’s HIV/AIDS Network, Queer People’s Health Collective and Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Coalition.

When the ACA was enacted, only 17 percent of Americans with HIV had private health insurance. In the individual insurance market, people living with HIV are generally considered “uninsurable” and are routinely rejected when they apply for coverage because they have a pre-existing condition.

Even when these individuals find an insurance company to cover them, most states have no rating limits, allowing insurers to charge prohibitively expensive premiums.

The ACA, according to Lambda, is designed to address this problem by eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions and requiring that everyone acquire health insurance.

The impact of such reform has already been demonstrated on a statewide level in Massachusetts after similar health care reform was implemented. The state had a 37 percent decrease in HIV infections while the nation had an 8 percent increase.

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