What Obamacare Means to LGBT Americans, Others

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By: Matthew Heinz, MD/Director of Provider & LGBT Outreach—

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a longstanding and deep commitment to advancing the health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. The Affordable Care Act is working to make health care more affordable, accessible and of a higher quality for millions of Americans, including LGBT Americans. And in the process has helped to address LGBT health care disparities. [pullquote]All of this is great news for the LGBT community. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country did not have health insurance.[/pullquote]

Today’s annual LGBT Health and Well-Being report shows that over this past year, HHS has taken a number of important steps to continue to advance the equality, health, and well-being of LGBT individuals, families, and communities.

  • Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity: In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down a law that prohibited federal recognition of same sex marriage.  Following the Windsor decision, the Department adopted a policy of treating same-sex marriages on the same terms as opposite-sex marriages to the greatest extent reasonably possible.  We have been working here at HHS to implement this policy.  HHS is currently identifying regulations that govern health care providers that receive federal funding and need to be revised to provide equal treatment to spouses, regardless of their sex, when it comes to patient rights and services, such as, family visitation.
  • Improving Data on LGBT Populations:To better understand and address the health care needs and health disparities of LGBT populations, HHS is adding questions on sexual orientation and gender identity to HHS sponsored national surveys. The Healthy People 2020 initiatives include the goal of improving the health, safety, and well-being of LGBT individuals, and the inclusion of questions that specifically measure LGBT health is an objective of this goal. HHS agencies have added questions on sexual orientation on several national health surveys.
  • LGBT Outreach and Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace: Open enrollment in the Marketplace begins November 15, 2014, and ends February 15, 2015. LGBT individuals and families will be able to find health care coverage that fits their needs and budget. All Marketplace plans cover essential health benefits, recommended preventive care, and are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. HHS continues to engage in broad outreach to help uninsured Americans, including LGBT individuals and families, gain access to affordable quality health coverage.  HHS is working with Out2Enroll initiative  to get the message out to the LGBT community about the open enrollment. Individuals can enroll by December 15, 2014, for coverage that starts January 1, 2015 For more information, visit gov. If you have questions or want to talk to someone locally, go to Localhelp.healthcare.gov/ or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855- 889-4325).

All of this is great news for the LGBT community. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country did not have health insurance.  [pullquote]The Affordable Care Act is working to make health care more affordable, accessible and of a higher quality for millions of Americans, including LGBT Americans.  And in the process has helped to address LGBT health care disparities.[/pullquote]

In 2010, HHS developed a LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee to discuss policy developments, encourage new LGBT-specific initiatives, and coordinate responses to LGBT concerns across the Department. I am honored to be joining the committee’s leadership as co- chair with Kathy Greenlee, Administrator of the Administration of Community Living and Assistant Secretary for Aging, and Dr. Wanda Jones, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health.

Here at HHS, we are committed to these issues and will continue to work to make health care coverage more accessible and equitable for LGBT Americans.

Click here to read the report.

[From a News Release]