Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday released a report detailing the Department of Health and Human Services’ significant strides over the past year as well as its objectives for the coming year for improving the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, families, and communities. The Department’s recent and future work encompasses a range of investments to help reduce health disparities and ensure equality and health security for LGBT Americans, from LGBT-inclusive research and data collection to equal access to affordable, quality health coverage.
“I am very proud of the strides that HHS has made to ensure equality for the LGBT community,” Secretary Sebelius said. “[Wednesday’s] report details the department’s unprecedented commitment to the health and well-being of LGBT Americans, and I look forward to helping strengthen that commitment.”
In the upcoming year, HHS will continue its work to ensure equal treatment for members of the LGBT community. The Department is working quickly to implement changes reflective of the June Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Additionally, HHS is continuing outreach to the LGBT community to ensure they are aware of new consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act – including a ban on health insurance companies’ ability to deny or limit coverage because of sexual orientation or gender identity – starting in 2014. Along with open enrollment education efforts to increase awareness of the October 1 launch of the new health insurance Marketplaces, HHS will host an outreach and engagement summit to equip the LGBT community with information and resources for obtaining coverage through the Marketplaces.
Also, in the upcoming year, HHS will continue to encourage research relating to the health needs of the LGBT community, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosting the first annual NIH Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Research Symposium. HHS is continuing to help develop scientific survey questions to improve data collection on the health status and health care experience of transgender populations. HHS is developing a resource document for practitioners who work with LGBT youth to help them understand the role of family acceptance and rejection in the overall health and well-being of youth. HHS is also funding grantees to systematically review, and ultimately improve, the practices and services available for homeless LGBT youth and for LGBT youth and adults facing intimate partner violence.
This past year, HHS continued to make important strides toward improving the health and well-being of LGBT individuals, families, and communities. Highlights include:
- The Affordable Care Act provides nondiscrimination protection in the health care system, including on the basis of sex. The Office for Civil Rights clarified that the prohibition includes discrimination based on gender identity or sex stereotyping.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began including a sexual orientation-specific question on the National Health Interview Survey to expand collection of data on factors that contribute to health disparities experienced by LGBT individuals. HHS has developed and is testing survey questions on gender identity, as well as sexual orientation, and is encouraging states to use them in CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released guidance clarifying the visitation rights of LGBT individuals in nursing homes participating in Medicare and Medicaid.
- HHS established a sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive non-discrimination policy that applies to services provided to HHS program beneficiaries by contractors.
- The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health expanded the Healthy People 2020 LGBT Topic Area to include new national objectives aimed at increasing the number of population-based data systems used to identify LGBT populations.
- The NIH completed a portfolio analysis determining that more than 230 projects addressing LGBT health were active in 2010.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded grants to support interventions that will improve the timely initiation and retention of quality HIV care for transgender women of color.
- The Office on Women’s Health invested in pilot studies to test effective ways of reducing obesity in lesbians and bisexual women.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency and the Health Resources and Services Administration identified and reviewed curricula that help behavioral health and primary care practitioners assess, treat, and refer LGBT clients in a culturally competent manner.
- The Administration for Community Living funded technical assistance activities relating to LGBT aging at the National Resource Center for LGBT Aging Work, including key activities of housing, mental health, family care giving, and disabilities.