Task Force applauds Supreme Court ruling upholding Affordable Care Act

The Task Force applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The Task Force advocated for the passage of the historic health care reform law. The Task Force has worked with HHS and a coalition of advocates in the LGBT community to ensure the most expansive inclusion of LGBT people and families in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, the Task Force co-hosted a Webinar in March with other advocacy organization and HHS to educate the LGBT community about how the Affordable Care Act helps LGBT people.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

This ruling is a victory to millions of people — including LGBT people and our families — who don’t have access to adequate, affordable health care. Health care reform is about revamping a severely broken system to help everyone get a fair shake when it comes to keeping themselves and their families healthy and out of harm’s way. It is about making sure everyone has access to affordable health care when faced with injury and illness. It is based on the premise that no one get hung out to dry — to literally die in some cases — because they were denied affordable health care in one of the richest countries in the world.

This ruling is fair and humane, but it also reminds us of the work that remains to be done. People of color and economically impoverished people are disproportionately affected by health inequities. We have also long known that LGBT people — particularly LGBT people of color — suffer from higher rates of health disparities, and we continue to press for reform that addresses the stark realities that many of us face every day. This advocacy includes urging the Department of Health and Human Services to use its authority to make inroads in areas such as data collection and research on LGBT health disparities. We celebrate today, but also pledge to keep pressing forward.

The Affordable Care Act and LGBT people

There are many provisions in the health care reform law with a substantial impact on LGBT people. These provisions include:

  • The Affordable Care Act extended federal nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex to the health care system for the first time. Courts and federal agencies have ruled that these protections safeguard transgender people from discrimination.
  • HHS has begun the process of developing and adding sexual orientation and gender identity questions to national health surveys, to help better understand LGBT health disparities.
  • Starting in 2014, insurance companies cannot deny health care coverage simply because of a pre-existing condition, which will ensure people with HIV or who have received gender transition-related care will still be able to get the health care coverage they need.
  • Starting in January 2014, each state must have a Health Benefit Exchange, a health insurance “supermarket” where individuals and families can buy quality health care plans at an affordable price. No state’s exchange may discriminate against consumers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Same-sex couples can search for health plans that offer coverage for domestic partners through the Health Plan Finder tool at www.healthcare.gov.

While today was a significant victory for all Americans, the Supreme Court did limit a key provision to expand coverage to low-income people through the federal Medicaid program. This setback will limit the ability to get health care coverage to the most needy among us. We must continue to press for reform to address the inequity in our health care system. It’s vital that policymakers in Washington, D.C. know the health care hurdles our community faces.

What personal hurdles does the Affordable Care Act eliminate for you? What challenges would you have faced if the Act wasn’t upheld today?

Please tell us what you need out of health care reform. Your story will help us advocate for more reform – for everyone.

To learn more about what today’s decision means for women, people of color, LGBT folks and other underserved groups, join us for an interactive #HealthJustice Tweet Chat this Friday, June 29 at 11:00 am – 12:30 pm PT/ 2:00 – 3:30 pm ET. You can join the chat “live” by following #HealthJustice o unámosnos en Español con #SaludyJusticia on Twitter. You can also follow #HCRdecision to get updates all week long.