The Affordable Care Act’s potential to help uninsured LGBT people gain access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance took a top spot this week in the new HHS LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee 2013 Report. The report also outlines several other HHS priorities in serving LGBT communities, including implementing the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, enhancing LGBT-focused research and data collection, and serving LGBTQ youth and families.
On the health reform front, HHS emphasized the importance of helping LGBT community members understand their coverage options under the health reform law:
- Around the start of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces on October 1, HHS will host an LGBT outreach and engagement event to help connect LGBT community members with affordable health insurance coverage.
- By the start of the next open enrollment season in October 2014, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation will issue a report on uninsurance among LGBT populations.
- As part of implementing key ACA-related reforms such as enhanced coverage for mental and behavioral health services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will develop a best practices toolkit on health insurance outreach and enrollment assistance for LGBT communities with a high prevalence of behavioral health needs.
The report also describes several key advances in data collection related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including the addition in January 2013 of a new question about sexual orientation to the National Health Interview Survey and the spring 2013 approval of an optional LGBT questions module for the state-based Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, or BRFSS. The advances on gender identity data collection are particularly promising, since better data collection around gender identity is critical to better understanding the health disparities affecting transgender populations and making sure that transgender people can get the health care they need, when they need it. As the report notes, a major opportunity on the horizon for LGBT data collection involves encouraging individual states to add the gender identity and sexual orientation questions to their BRFSS surveys.
Another important part of compiling data to build the evidence base on LGBT health is the continuing engagement of the National Institutes of Health around the issues facing LGBTI and Two-Spirit populations. Earlier this summer NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and other senior NIH staff held the first NIH LGBTI health listening session, and NIH will soon be hosting its first annual NIH LGBTI Research Symposium to further investigate critical topics in LGBT health research. The announcement coincides with the recent launch of LGBT Health, a new flagship publication for the LGBT health research field.
Ensuring that HHS program staff and grantees have the knowledge necessary to work with LGBT populations, particularly out-of-home LGBTQ youth, is another major 2013-2014 priority. SAMHSA will be working with the Family Acceptance Project to develop a resource document for practitioners working with LGBT youth in service sectors such as behavioral health, child welfare, and juvenile justice, and the Administration for Children and Families is funding two grantees to conduct a systematic review of services available for homeless LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ people in the context of domestic and intimate partner violence.
Read the report here.
Kellan Baker is the Associate Director of LGBT Progress.