This week is LGBT Health Awareness Week, a time to bring attention to the devastating cycle of discrimination and health disparities that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
LGBT people encounter discrimination in employment, relationship recognition and insurance coverage on a regular basis; consequently, they are less likely to be able to afford vital health care than their straight and non-transgender neighbors. For LGBT people of color, barriers to care and health disparities are even greater.
The week falls during the first-ever Transgender Month of Action for Healthcare Equality, which seeks to educate leaders and co-workers about the health-care disparities faced by transgender people.
Earlier this week, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) released a statement for LGBT Health Awareness Week. Dedicated to improving the access and quality of health care for LGBT people, Sebelius expressed the continued commitment of the Obama administration and HHS to the cause as well as the current changes that they have been able to accomplish:
LGBT Americans have experienced — and continue to experience — health disparities and are more likely than other Americans to be uninsured or underinsured. Now, because of the Affordable Care Act, our major national health surveys are beginning to include data on LGBT populations. This will give us the information we need to target and reduce disparities among this group going forward. We have also formed an internal working group to ensure we’re developing and coordinating policies targeted at increasing access to care for LGBT Americans and addressing their special health care needs.
This year saw many significant gains for the LGBT community. For example:
- The new state health-care insurance exchanges are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that LGBT people across the United States will now have access to health insurance policies that can’t discriminate against LGBT people in any of its activities! Open enrollment for state exchanges starts Oct. 1, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. You can find out more at www.healthcare.gov.
- The health-care inequalities and general health disparities amongst the LGBT population continue to persist, in part, because very little data has ever been collected or measured. Now, due to advocacy from the Task Force and other LGBT organizations, the major national health surveys are beginning to include data on LGBT Americans.
- Within HHS, a working group on LGBT health has been established to ensure that the department’s policy work is inclusive to the population’s special health care needs as well as to increase the overall access to health care for LGBT Americans.
- On an international front, HHS is working to advance a resolution by the World Health Organization for LGBT health care. The resolution will work towards the betterment of equal access and quality of care, in addition to breaking down the discriminatory barriers that LGBT individuals must face to live healthily.
And we continue to push for more LGBT inclusion in health surveys, fully-inclusive health insurance benefits, and more. Happy LGBT Health Awareness Week!