Issue: As the new Administration begins to take on reforming our healthcare system, we must ensure that all Americans, including our LGBT family and friends, have full access to the full range of health promotion, prevention and treatment services. Persistent stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity have lead to decades of obstructed access to LGBT-affirmative and culturally competent healthcare and have had lead to significant negative impacts on the overall health and wellbeing of LGBT individuals. LGBT people often encounter significant barriers that prevent them from accessing the vital healthcare services necessary for even routine care. We have provided a few recommendations on what the administration can do immediately to help ensure that comprehensive healthcare is accessible to all Americans.
Include LGBT individuals and families in healthcare reform. Definitions must be written to remove barriers that prevent LGBT individuals from accessing healthcare. In particular, the terms “family,” “parent,” and “spouse” are commonly interpreted to exclude LGBT families because many LGBT families lack access to the rights and benefits of legal marriage. As long as the federal government’s definition of families excludes LGBT households, same-sex partners who have entered into domestic partnerships and civil unions will not be able to access healthcare through programs designed to cover families, such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Mandate healthcare coverage and services for transgender individuals. Transgender and gender non-conforming people must be afforded access to basic healthcare that acknowledges their gender identity without prejudice or negative consequences. Many insurance plans still routinely refuse coverage for many medically necessary services by excluding “transgender-related services” and denying coverage for any medical expenses that could be interpreted as relating to “sex reassignment.” Such policies discourage individuals from seeking treatment, including primary care, for fear that they could lose their insurance (if insured) or face ridicule and discrimination when attempting to access services.
Include LGBT individuals in healthcare data collection. Historically, health data collection efforts have not included LGBT populations or gathered information regarding the specific healthcare needs of LGBT people. Consequently, all new or updated national forms or data collection tools must be inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. For example, forms must include the option to choose a same-sex partner versus a spouse, or to choose “transgender female” or “transgender male” (or other transgender inclusive identification options that may be determined by researchers) under demographic gender questions, or for an individual to name” parent 1” and “parent 2 “ as opposed to “mother” and “father.” Click here to read a report from The Center for American Progress about the need to include LGBT individuals in healthcare data collection.
Address the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. Gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals (especially individuals of color, transgender women, and youth) are at particular risk for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The Administration must develop a National AIDS Strategy designed to lower HIV incidence, increase access to HIV/AIDS care, and reduce racial disparities in the epidemic among LGBT populations. It should also integrate HIV/AIDS with prevention and treatment programs for other STIs, viral hepatitis, and tuberculosis wherever possible.
What You Can Do to Help:
If you are concerned about this priority, you can help influence the administration by sending a letter to the following offices:
Attn: President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Phone: (202) 456-1414
Attn: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
US Dept. of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Phone: (202) 690-7000