US Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, recognizes the struggles of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in terms of healthcare, especially during LGBT Pride Month.
In Sebelius’ news release this month on the matter, she acknowledged that the LGBT community has been treated like a group of lower class citizens when it comes to healthcare, often times facing limited access to services and insurance. Additionally, those individuals have had higher rates of tobacco use, are at an increased risk for mental health illness and were less likely to seek preventative care necessary to stay healthy.
Sebelius believes the LGBT community, like all Americans, deserves the most respectful health care providers and the ability to get affordable, quality, and accessible health care. She has worked hard with her team at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make a difference for the LGBT community.
New standards have been put in place to reduce barriers for groups like those who identify with the LGBT community; the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care, recently released by the HHS.
CLAS allows Americans better access to health-care through enhanced Medicare and Medicaid programs and additional options for insurance coverage. Under the Health Insurance Marketplace, consumers will be able to compare plans and select the one that best suits them; enrollment begins October 1, 2013.
Under the Affordable Care Act, important factors Sebelius wants to remind everyone during LGBT Pride Month:
- “Insurers can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on health insurance coverage, and annual limits will be phased out in 2014. This is particularly important for people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other chronic diseases requiring comprehensive, long-term care.
- Starting in 2014, insurers cannot deny coverage or charge higher rates based on a pre-existing condition or because an individual is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
- Insurers generally must cover such vital preventive services as HIV screening, vaccinations, depression screening, contraception, intimate-partner violence screening, and annual well-woman visits, at no out-of-pocket charge.
- Healthcare.gov includes a health plan finder tool that allows consumers shopping for health insurance to filter for plans offering coverage for domestic and same-sex partners.” (hhs.gov)
LGBT Pride Month – June
June has been designated as LGBT Pride Month in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. The Riots occurred in June 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City, at the Stonewall Inn; they were a series of violent and spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid. The riots are considered to have marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.
Over the years, the entire LGBT community has come to hold events during the month of June; pride events such as parades, festivals, and rallies are held across the country.
The president has occasionally declared June as the official Pride Month; this year, President Barack Obama made his official statement saying, “The story of America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” (boston.com)
Kathleen Sebelius supports the LGBT community during June as well, saying, “While we’re proud of our accomplishments, we recognize there is much still to be done. HHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of all Americans, including LGBT individuals, and we look forward to continuing this important work during Pride Month and beyond.” (hhs.gov)
By Dawn Cranfield
Senior Correspondent / Product Specialist