Health Care Reform’s Effect on the LGBT Community
The United States Supreme Court’s decision on June 28, 2012, to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed into law by President Obama has a profound impact on millions of Americans, including LGBT people and their families. This law, commonly referred to as ObamaCare, is the single largest regulatory health care reform legislation since the development of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. In a 2008 study conducted by Harris Interactive, LGBT adults (ages 18 and over) were found to be nearly twice as likely as heterosexual adults to be uninsured, 22% and 12% respectively (1). This health care reform law will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and offer tax credits to low income Americans of which the LGBT community is found to have higher poverty rates compared to their heterosexual counterparts (2).
The passage of this new law will have profound implications on more than just access to care and affordability. Below is a brief list of a few additional effects the ACA will have on the LGBT community in particular (3,4).
- Starting in 2013, national data collection efforts will include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in an effort to better understand the health disparities affecting the LGBT community.
- Health insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions and will eliminate lifetime and annual expense limits by 2014. This is particularly important for transgender people and those infected with HIV who have been frequently denied coverage.
- For the first time, the ACA expands state and federal non-discrimination protections based on sex within the health care system including protections for transgender people.
- The development of a government website that allows for an easy and comprehensive search for health care coverage that offers the ability to filter search results to providers that offer coverage to domestic or same sex partners through the Health Plan Finder tool.
- Age limits on coverage for children on their parent’s or guardian’s health plan was extended to the age of 26 which should help increase the number of insured LGBT young adults.
- Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to charge co-payments for lifesaving preventative services including, but not limited to, testing for sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.
The ACA addresses several of the barriers LGBT people face in acquiring comprehensive health care including accessibility, affordability, and discrimination from health care companies and providers. As pieces of this health reform law continue to come into effect over the next couple of years, hopefully reductions in inequalities and disparities LGBT people face related to health will be achieved.
1. Harris Interactive. (2008, May 19). Nearly one in four gay and lesbian adults lack health insurance. Retrieved from http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/PressReleases/tabid/446/ctl/ ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1506/ArticleId/335/Default.aspx
2. Schneebaum, A., & Gates, G.J. (2009 March). Poverty in the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community. The Williams Institute. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/ wp-content/uploads/Albelda-Badgett-Schneebaum-Gates-LGB-Poverty-Report-March-2009.pdf
3. Long, S. (2012, June 28). Supreme Court’s landmark health-care ruling a victory for millions, including LGBT people. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacey-long/supreme-court-health-care-ruling-lgbt-people_b_1634391.html
4. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. (2012, June 28). Task Force applauds Supreme Court ruling upholding Affordable Care Act. Retrieved from http://www.thetaskforce.org/press/releases/pr_062812