Wednesday, March 31, 2010

National LGBT Health Awareness Week

This week, March 28-April 3, is the 8th Annual National LGBT Health Awareness Week.

This year's theme for LGBT Health Awareness Week is "Closing the Gap." The LGBT community has, on average, worse health outcomes and less access to the care than the straight community.

We need to educate ourselves and our health care providers about our unique health needs as well as our health risks in order to close the gap - everyone deserves good health!

It can be hard to talk about intimate life with anyone. To make sure the LGBT community stays healthy, we need to help our health care providers help us by talking openly and honestly about our lives and who we are.

Coming out is crucial. We need to come out to our providers about our sexual orientation or gender identity. We need to let them know when we are fighting depression, challenging substance use, and trying to manage our sexual health.

You'll find a selection of fact sheets and resources on LGBT-specific health issues here. Topics include:

As a bonus, in honor of this week, here is the upshot of the recently passed healthcare reform legislature ... from a gay perspective.

Once implemented, more than 95 percent of the country will have health insurance coverage, including 32 million who are currently uninsured. This matters to the LGBT community because:
  • Gay folks are disproportionately poor and/or homeless due to pervasive discrimination, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. Extending health care coverage to economically disadvantaged people will help a critically vulnerable segment of our community gain access to basic medical care.
  • Under the new law, adult children under the age of 27 will be able to remain on their families’ insurance policies, even after they leave home and/or graduate from college. Between 1 million and 9 million children are being raised by LGBT parents in the United States today, and poverty rates for children of same-sex couples are twice as high as poverty rates for children of different-sex married couples.
  • A 2006 survey of national data by the Williams Institute showed that 20 percent of people in same-sex couples were uninsured, compared with only 11.5 percent of married individuals.
  • Data from the CDC's National Health Interview Survey found that women in same-sex couples were statistically significantly less likely to have health insurance than women in different-sex relationships.
Other positive aspects include:
  • Increased general data collection, which will help identify disparities in LGBT healthcare (though increased LGBT-specific data collection did not make the final cut).
  • Emphasis on disease prevention and public health.
  • The end of gender ratings, which means insurance companies will no longer be able to charge women more than men for the exact same policies.
  • Access to coverage despite preexisting conditions. This provision will be a tremendous benefit to transgender people, people with HIV, and groups of LGBT folks who are disproportionately affected by certain illnesses, e.g., lesbians with a greater incidence of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, the reform also has some negatives:
  • It continues the five-year ban on legal immigrants’ Medicaid eligibility and a ban on undocumented residents’ access to health insurance, which will affect gay communities in these groups.
  • There are restrictions on reproductive freedom, which is an adjunct issue affecting LGBT folks.
  • There are none of the proposed specific anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people or measures specifically addressing the needs of people with HIV.
  • The final package lacks an earlier provision that would have eliminated the tax paid on domestic partner health benefits offered by employers.
  • It provides funding to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which have been proven not only ineffective but also harmful to LGBT youth and youth from LGBT families
Read more about healthcare reform at the White House's site on the topic.