Thursday, September 30, 2010

New health care law addresses LGBT needs

Within six months of the enactment of this law, we have put in place policies that many of us have fought our entire life for.

via Bay Area Reporter, by Matt Baume

Six months after the passage of health care reform, big changes are under way for the ways that LGBTs access health care. With lower costs and expanded protections on the horizon, the LGBT Community Center [San Francisco] hosted a forum Monday to explain the ways that health care has already changed and may shift in the months and years ahead.

Hosted by Dan Gould, director of the California LGBT Health and Human Services Network, a program of the Equality California Institute, the discussion featured comments by Herb Schultz, California's regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services, and David Hansell, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families.

Appointed earlier this year by President Barack Obama, Schultz and Hansell are key to the administration's efforts to address LGBT health issues.

Provisions of the Affordable Care Act have already begun reform private insurance and expand public programs, and are expected to continue doing so over the next decade.

Among the new measures is expanded eligibility for Medicaid, caps on out-of-pocket expenses, tax credits for small businesses, free prevention and wellness programs, and annual wellness consultations for Medicare recipients.

Behind the scenes, health organizations will improve data collection and will receive improved cultural sensitivity training.

The reforms also eliminate lifetime limits on heath coverage, and prohibit insurance companies from dropping customers when they become sick. These issues have disproportionately affected people with HIV.

Schultz recommended that people visit to learn more about how their coverage and options may be changing.

The work of HHS isn't limited to just the implementation of the health care reform bill. Hansell pointed out that the department administers a broad range of services and protections, including the enforcement of Obama's recent directives that hospitals recognize advance care directives and enforce inclusive visitation policies.

Obama also asked HHS to make recommendations for addressing health care issues that affect the LGBT community. The department has convened a committee to gather recommendations from citizens and health organizations, and expects to issue those recommendations this fall.
Among the recommendations currently under investigation are guidelines for benefits that serve transgender individuals.

"ACF was not very LGBT-friendly in the previous administration," Hansell acknowledged. "Well, I can tell you, that has changed."

To that end, ACF has created new programs to serve LGBT adoptive parents, including outreach and grants for parent-to-parent support programs. In addition, the administration has directed programs for homeless youth to specifically serve LGBTs. It is also revising abstinence education – which it is required by Congress to provide – to more appropriately reflect the concerns of LGBT youth.

"Within six months of the enactment of this law, we have put in place policies that many of us have fought our entire life for," Schultz said. But, he added, their work is far from over.

"In order for us to be successful, we need the community to tell us the things that are important," he said.

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