HHS Identifies Steps to Improve LGBT Health

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released its annual report identifying steps the Department has and could take “to improve the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, families, and communities.” The announcement outlines the department’s accomplishments in improving health in LGBT communities in the past year, as well as its objectives for this coming year.

The Department’s goals include many initiatives that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has advocated for, including the federal recognition of same-sex spouses and marriages, LGBT outreach on the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, and research and data collection on a variety of LGBT health concerns. Specifically, the 2013 objectives are:

  • Working quickly to implement the United States v. Windsor ruling invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • Engaging in broad LGBT outreach to help uninsured Americans gain access to affordable health insurance.
    • One way the Department will perform outreach is by hosting a summit to equip LGBT community leaders with the tools, information, and resources they need to assist community members in finding coverage through the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.
    • Another outreach effort is the development of a best practices toolkit by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This toolkit will provide health insurance enrollment assistance for LGBT communities with high prevalence rates of behavioral health needs.
    • The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation will issue a report by October 2014 examining the prevalence of insurance among LGBT populations to better guide HHS in its outreach efforts.
    • HHS will complete cognitive testing of gender identity survey questions it developed to help the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) develop survey data on the healthcare experiences of transgender populations.
    • SAMHSA will test pilot sexual orientation questions in its 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
    • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will host the first annual NIH Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Research symposium to explore critical topics in LGBTI health research. The NIH will also release an analysis of the 2012 LGBTI-research related portfolio.
    • SAMSHA and the Family Acceptance Project will develop resources for practitioners who work with LGBT youth (such as homeless and runaway programs) to help them understand the role of family acceptance in the overall health and well-being of LGBT youth.
    • The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) will fund two grantees to review practices and services aiming at improving LGBTQ youth homeless efforts and domestic violence efforts for LGBTQ individuals and their families.

Some of the HHS’s accomplishments over the last year include:

  • HHS’s Office of Civil Rights clarified that Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discriminations on the basis of sex in the health care system, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sex stereotyping.
  • The CDC collected data through its National Health Interview Survey pertaining to health disparities experienced by LGBT individuals.
  • HHS established a sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive non-discrimination policy applicable to services provided to HHS program beneficiaries by HHS contractors.

The Task Force will continue to work closely with HHS to implement these initiatives and create policies that benefit LGBT people and their families.