Obamacare and LGBT Health

by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted September 17, 2013

Throughout the Administration, we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law. That’s why the Affordable Care Act is so important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

The health care law prevents health insurance companies from charging anyone a higher premium just because they happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  It also prevents insurers from raising rates or denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health concerns.

Thanks to the law, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime limit on your coverage. This is particularly important to HIV/AIDS patients, and anyone who has a chronic condition. 

The Affordable Care Act also includes critically important, non-discrimination provisions. For example, starting in January 2014, it will be illegal for any of the insurance companies who offer coverage through the Marketplace to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We’ve also taken action to strengthen the civil rights provision in the law, by clarifying that the new law’s prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping, and on gender identity. 

All of this is good news for the LGBT community, particularly when we consider that one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country do not have health insurance. Starting October 1, they are going to have the opportunity to sign-up for quality, affordable coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace for coverage beginning as early as January 1, 2014.

But here’s the thing: most of these Americans are not yet aware of their new options.

You don’t have to be an expert to figure out what we need to do to get the word out. It’s outreach. It’s education. It’s communication. 

That’s why, last week at the White House, I joined Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, and nearly 200 LGBT community leaders and allies from across the country for a briefing on Obamacare and the LGBT community. The purpose of this briefing was to equip community leaders with the tools, information, and resources they need to get involved and help local LGBT communities get access to quality, affordable health care.

And that’s why we are excited to work with organizations like Out2Enroll, a new initiative to educate the LGBT community about the Affordable Care Act. Rooting for more of our neighbors to sign up for health care is not enough. It’s going to take work at the grassroots. And so Out2Enroll has a very important mission. 

Dr. King taught us, “Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless effort and the persistent work of dedicated individuals.”

So in the weeks and months ahead, we look forward to working with a diverse range of partners – national advocates, LGBT community centers, HIV/A IDS service providers, Pride organizations, PFLAG chapters – to ensure that members of the LGBT community have the information, resources, and tools they need to sign up for quality, affordable health care.

I hope you will join us in this important work.

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