White House LGBT Summit
September 12, 2013
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Valerie Jarrett.
And a big thanks to all of you. You know, I committed to making sure this summit would happen, because I believe very strongly, that your voice is a voice which needs to be heard.
To this end, we’ve set up an LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee at the Department of Health and Human Services, and I want to introduce you to our co-chairs: Kathy Greenlee; Howard Koh; and Ken Choe.
As we begin, I just wanted to say a quick word about the “Out2Enroll” campaign, which I understand is “rolling out” today. They are going to be doing outreach in the LGBT community around the Affordable Care Act.
More than one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country do not have health insurance. That bears repeating. More than one in three.
Now, starting October 1, they are going to have the opportunity to sign-up for quality, affordable coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace. But here’s the thing: We know from the research that most of these Americans are not yet aware of their new options.
You don’t have to be a public policy expert to figure out the remedy. It’s outreach. It’s education. It’s communication.
Rooting for more of our neighbors to sign up is not enough. It’s going to take work at the grassroots.
And so Out2Enroll has a very important mission.
President Obama has said that “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
Throughout the Administration, we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law.
At the Department of Health and Human Services, our policy is very clear: you can’t be excluded from any of our services or employment opportunities because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Period.
Well before the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA, we acted under the President’s direction to protect the rights of LGBT citizens to visit their partners in the hospital.
- We established the nation’s first national resource center for older LGBT individuals.
- We gave states the ability to offer same-sex partners the protections they offer opposite-sex spouses, when it comes to long-term care under Medicaid.
- And we made LGBT youth a priority in our anti-bullying campaigns.
None of these things are about politics. They’re about basic human dignity.
And it’s for this very same reason that we’re working to counter act a more subtle form of discrimination – the disparities in how we collect, study and act upon research. And so we’re refreshing the way we collect our data – finding new ways to make it more inclusive of more communities.
To give you just one example, we’re working through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect both sexual orientation data and gender identity data.
Why does this matter? Because in order to close health disparities we have to be able to adequately measure them, understand them, and better target our interventions.
So these are just a few of the things we’ve been doing. And we have a term for them: “a start.” All of us recognize that we still have a lot more work to do – especially in this “post-DOMA” world.
But the good news, is that we’re already rolling up our sleeves and getting this work started. You might have heard about the actions we took recently to protect the equal rights of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. Under our new guidance, the spouses of these Americans are able to receive care in the same skilled nursing facility, regardless of their gender, and regardless of in which state they happen to reside.
I also have something new to announce for you today: The National Institutes of Health will now give the same recognition to same-sex spouses that they give to opposite-sex spouses at their Clinical Center. This is particularly important when it comes to identifying a legal, “next-of-kin.”
We’re not the only ones taking action, by the way. Shortly after the ruling, our friends in the Office of Personnel Management affirmed the right of federal employees to add same-sex spouses to their health care plans.
So although we all have more work to do, we’re moving forward.
And speaking about moving forward, before I close I wanted to touch on the Affordable Care Act and what it means for LGBT Americans.
As you do your own outreach in the LGBT community, the first thing I hope you’ll remind your friends and neighbors is that the new health care law prevents health insurance companies from charging anyone a higher premium just because they happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Or for that matter, whether or not they happen to be a woman.
Nor can they raise anyone’s rates or deny them care because of a pre-existing condition like HIV AIDS, cancer, or mental health concerns.
Thanks to the new law, your insurance company can no longer tell you that you’ve reach a lifetime limit on your coverage.
This is particularly important to HIV/AIDS patients, and anyone who has a chronic condition.
And starting next year, your insurance company won’t be able to impose an annual dollar limit on you either.
The Affordable Care Act also has a few more, critically important, non-discrimination provisions built-in.
For example, it will be illegal for the 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 new law, by clarifying that the new law’s prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping, and on gender identity.
As I wrap up, let me just take this opportunity to thank you again for being engaged in these issues.
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 many of you are working both tirelessly and persistently. And this work continues.
And so let me close, the way I began. One in three low-income LGBT adults does not have insurance. And the overwhelming majority do not know about their new options.
I need you to talk to your friends and family and tell them if they are uninsured to go to HealthCare.gov and learn about their better options for better health.
Thank you all very much.