Minding Your Health – Affordable Care Act and LGBT Community

The Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court upheld this summer, is a nationwide attempt at establishing a health-care system that works for everyone, including LGBT communities and those living with HIV/AIDS. It addresses accessibility issues, including insurance coverage, preventive care, and discrimination by providers. Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services secretary, stated: “The Affordable Care Act may represent the strongest foundation we have ever created to begin closing LGBT health disparities.” 

Stephen Boswell, president of Fenway Health, the Boston health-care facility that focuses on care for the LGBT community, said, “The Affordable Care Act provides the LGBT community in parts of the country that don’t recognize same-sex relationships with more affordable insurance options and provides support for preventative care and HIV testing, treatment and prevention services. It also prohibits insurance companies from canceling coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, including for people living with HIV.”
The Human Rights Campaign released its 2012 Health Equality Index Report. The report measures these four basic rights criteria:
• Non-discrimination against patients.
• Non-discrimination against staff.
• Hospital visitation rights for LGBT families.
• LGBT cultural competency training.  
In Missouri, only one health-care provider – in St. Louis – participated in the report; Kansas had no participants. See the full report at www.hrc.org/hei.
An American Psychological Association task force is developing treatment guidelines and position statements on rights issues for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals (www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/committee/practice-guidelines.aspx).
Legislation being considered in California is aimed at banning sexual orientation change efforts (ex-gay, conversion or reparative therapy), which are considered ineffective by most major medical organizations and therefore unethical. At the same time, the president of the ex-gay Christian group Exodus International is attempting to convince members of the organization that they should no longer profess their ability to “cure homosexuality” and that this may even be harmful to those who have gone through their program (www.timesunion.com/news/article/Christian-group-backs-away-from-ex-gay-therapy-3664563.php).
The Michigan House passed a bill (HB 5040) that circumvents nearly every major psychological association’s code of ethics. It states that Michigan colleges cannot discipline a student who refuses to treat certain individuals who have an identity that may conflict with the student’s religious beliefs. (If we were to follow this logic, it would be OK for a white counseling student to refuse to treat a black client simply because it conflicted with his or her “religious beliefs.”) This case concerns a black counseling student who refused to treat gay clients (thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/06/15/500434/michigan-house-passes-anti-gay-license-to-condemn-counseling-bill/?mobile=nc).
Across the country, concerns are being voiced that vendors, such as liquor companies, are sponsoring gay pride events without truly supporting the best interests of LGBT communities. A Media Literacy Project article says that LGBT smoking and drinking rates are nearly twice that of non-LGBT populations and that therefore using substance-based products to sponsor gay pride events is a brilliant idea from a marketing perspective, but devastating from a public health perspective (medialiteracyproject.org/deconstructions/pride-not-sale).
Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment recently released a strategic plan to reduce and eliminate health disparities faced by the state’s LGBT communities (www.coprevent.org/2012/06/first-ever-colorado-lgbt-plan-aims-to.html?tw_p=twt).
Puerto Rico is hosting its second LGBT Health Summit, titled “Stigma and its Impact on the Health of LGBTT Communities” (saludlgbttpr.webs.com/ or lgbthealthequity.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/press-release-second-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-and-transsexual-health-summit-of-puerto-rico-stigma-and-its-impact-on-the-health-of-lgbtt-communities-2/). 
The Whole Person in Kansas City runs a Social Support Group for LGBT people with disabilities (including intellectual, physical, behavioral and emotional). For more information, email srogers@thewholeperson.org)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will fund pilot studies in five locations to identify and test effective ways to reduce obesity in lesbian and bisexual women. “These populations have higher rates of obesity than heterosexual women, and little intervention research has been funded thus far to address these health inequities,” stated a report from the HHS LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee. The report highlighted the department’s accomplishments during the past year and the goals for 2012 (www.hhs.gov/secretary/about/lgbthealth_objectives_2012.html).

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