Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Healthcare Disparities

Just published a few comments that have been waiting in the hopper for almost a year... so, sorry about that. :-) Haven't logged in here for a while.

Decided I'd drop a quick note about the AMA's recent policy adopted in regard to gay marriage. It was based on a report written by the Council on Science and Public Health that outlined the evidence for healthcare disparities between heterosexual couples and homosexual couples. The findings of the report were literally true, although taken altogether they gave an impression that was not true. Specifically, the supporting information suggests that the only reason for homosexual couples to be excluded from marriage is discrimination, which is opinion rather than fact.

It is a fact, on the other hand, that those who are insured are much more likely to get good healthcare options, live healthier, and live longer. It is also a fact that insurance coverage is routinely offered to spouses but not otherwise unrelated relations, so to speak. The disparity in healthcare and health between gay and straight couples is directly attributable to these facts, and was the basis for the AMA's support of same-sex marriage.

But there's a little problem with this.

Many opponents of gay marriage have contested that extending marriage to gays would dilute or destroy traditional marriage. These concerns have been dismissed as paranoid and absurd. How could it possibly follow that your straight marriage is harmed by opening the circle to others a little bit.

But the AMA has now shown exactly how this would work. The rationale for supporting gay marriage was to eliminate health disparities. This same logic, to be consistent, must also support eliminating traditional marriage altogether. The disparity in health and healthcare has never really been between straight and gay couples, it has been between married couples and unmarried people of any sort. By the same logic, that is unfair and victimizes those who are unmarried. Whether it is by choice or necessity, they should not have to bear the brunt of inferior healthcare and shorter lives because our society arbitrarily bestows benefits on the legally married.

So, in my view, the AMA's new policy position can be interpreted as a great step forward for gay equality and the marriage movement, or it can be interpreted as indicative of how some of the anti-gay marriage arguments might not be so absurd after all.

Don't be surprised if I don't moderate comments right away. I've got board exams coming up and a move and... well... life isn't really leaving room for this blog much anymore!