The ongoing budget and deficit reduction negotiations carry far-reaching consequences for every American. But further capping or cutting funding for vital health programs such as Medicare, community health centers, and Medicaid place communities that already face disparities in health and access to health care, including gay and transgender Americans, under even greater threat.
Heavy cuts to health care entitlement programs and health programs funded by nondefense discretionary spending would put these communities at serious risk of losing assistance essential to their well-being. Many gay and transgender people, like other Americans, rely on entitlement programs such as Medicare and stand to benefit substantially from the expansion of Medicaid and other promising provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Most importantly, further cuts to discretionary spending threaten to undermine the national health infrastructure that protects the health of all Americans and that is critical to closing the disparities that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population.
Programs and initiatives at risk include:
– Data collection by HHS on sexual orientation and gender identity that would allow gay and transgender disparities to be identified and effectively targeted
– Biomedical and behavioral research on HIV prevention and treatment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health
– Primary, preventive, and other direct health care services through community health centers, which will serve an estimated 40 million Americans by 2015, including many gay and transgender people and their families
– Mental health services that help gay and transgender youth and adults cope with depression and other consequences of bullying and discrimination
– Substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, including tobacco cessation programs that work to reduce high rates of smoking among LGBT people
– Programs that support out-of-home gay and transgender youth, who comprise up to 40 percent of the homeless youth population in the United States
– Efforts by the Office of Minority Health to address the staggering disparities that affect gay and transgender communities of color
Though the funding for these programs may be discretionary, the programs themselves should not be.
The Center for American Progress recommends that cuts to both nondefense discretionary spending and entitlement programs be minimal and balanced by the kinds of revenue increases that will truly help eliminate the deficit and responsibly balance the budget. The committee must resist the urge to take a cuts-only approach without raising any significant additional revenue. Otherwise, it threatens to sacrifice our nation’s future health for short-term political gain.