White House Breaks Down What Healthcare Reform Can Do for the LGBT Community

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The White House wants you to know how Obamacare is going to beat up on some of the obstacles that the LGBT community faces everyday.

“Despite the tremendous progress we’ve made in achieving equality for the LGBT community,” a statement from the administration reads, “many LGBT individuals still face limited access to healthcare and insurance, and are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy.”

To help break down where the government will come in to help, the White House held a video informational on Thursday, Sept. 13.

“We’re working with the CDC to collect both sexual orientation and gender identity data,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during the briefing. “If we’re going to close health disparities, we need to understand what’s happening. All of us recognize we have a lot to do — especially in the post-DOMA world.”

She announced that the NIH will now give the same recognition to same-sex spouses that it gives to opposite-sex couples, getting rid of what could have been “discriminatory.” She also noted the step forward in allowing federal employees to give healthcare benefits to their significant others.

“I think we need to start with reminding our friends and neighbors that the new healthcare reform will stop insurance companies from charging a higher premium for people who are LGBT. That’s now illegal in the United States,” she said to applause.

Another step taken was the elimination of coverage denial based on preexisting conditions like HIV/AIDS. When she noted this, the crowd applauded again.

“No one again will have a lifetime limit on their healthcare insurance. We’re instituting annual limits,” she said. The Affordable Care Act, she added, also makes it illegal for companies to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Dr. King has taught us that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability,” she said, continuing to say the efforts that led to these provisions are the fruits of the labor of many activists across the country. “The work that you’ve done to get us to this place is transformative.”

Kathy Greenlee of the LGBT Coordinating Committee Work Group at the U.S. Dept. of HHS talked about the administrative history and efforts of helping the aforementioned provision to fruition.

“We wanted to make sure that the money we already have at HHS goes to the community, that people know about the funding,” she said.

Howard Koh works alongside Greenlee. Based on the timeline that the HHS is looking at, Koh said that by the summer of 2014, there’ll be surveyed numbers and data regarding the LGBT community, which will help determine its real needs. Koh said that at a meeting in January, LGBT leaders emphasized the importance of acquiring data specific to gender identity in the country. This led to actual surveys being conducted through the CDC.

Working along both Greenlee and Koh is Ken Choe (the three sat together and spoke in turn).

“We’re here for you. Kathy, Howard and I (and others) would like to think that we’ve demonstrated that we’re listening to you,” he said. “We hope that our accomplishment show that we’re trying to solve a range of issues across the board.”

According to the administration, Obamacare will “directly address” some of the needs faced by the LGBT community in these ways:

  • Protecting the right to access quality, affordable health insurance. Starting in 2014, the health care law prevents insurers from denying coverage or charging a higher premium because of a pre-existing condition or because of their sexual orientation.
  • Removing lifetime dollar limits on coverage. That means that people with chronic diseases, like HIV/AIDS, cancer and mental health concerns, can get the care we need. And starting in 2014, all annual limits will be illegal, too.
  • Promoting wellness by requiring insurers to cover preventive care at no additional cost. LGBT adults and teens can get screened by a health professional for HIV and depression without paying co-pays or deductibles. Other preventive services, like cervical cancer screening for sexually active women, obesity counseling for people at risk, and well-woman visits are also covered at no extra cost.
  • Helping more LGBT Americans find affordable health insurance. Starting October 1, 2013, all Americans without insurance and those looking for better options will have a new place to shop for plans, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and may qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums.
  • For more information, go to HealthCare.govJacob Long

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