HHS Announces LGBT Agenda

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week responded to a mandate by President Obama to “explore additional steps HHS could take to improve the lives of LGBT people.”  The mandate had been part of President Obama’s Presidential Memorandum on Hospital Visitation, which he issued last April.

“For too long, LGBT people have been denied the compassionate services they deserve,” the statement begins.  “That is now changing.  HHS continues to make significant progress toward protecting the rights of every American to access quality care, recognizing that diverse populations have distinctive needs.  Safeguarding the health and well-being of all Americans requires a commitment to treating all people with respect while being sensitive to their differences.” 

The Summary of Actions (Taken) includes 14 separate federal policy changes affecting LGBT people.  Some of these are well-known – the Affordable Care Act, to name one – and others are internal to HHS, such as including gender identity in internal anti-discrimination policies.  Some are specifically related to aging, such as the funding of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.  Others have been woefully under-publicized, such as an HHS Internal LGBT Coordinating Committee, which is tasked with coordinating LGBT-related policies and considering LGBT concerns, and producing an annual report “on the Department’s key accomplishments and upcoming initiatives.”

The document also lists seven actions HHS is working on:

  1. Programming the online tool HealthCare.gov to allow users to search for health insurance policies that include coverage of domestic partners.
  2. Conducting outreach to LGBT organizations to let them know about available federal funding.
  3. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity questions to ongoing federally-funded health and demographic surveys.
  4. Continuing to ensure that federal programs define “family” in ways that include families of choice, and ensuring that states know they can extend spousal impoverishment protection to same-sex partners of nursing home residents using Medicaid.
  5. Increasing the LGBT cultural competency of health professionals, focusing especially on transgender issues.
  6. Providing training and technical assistance to child welfare agencies on the needs of LGB T youth and their families.
  7. Addressing LGBT issues in HHS domestic violence and other violence prevention programs, including youth anti-bullying initiatives.

The statement is available on the HHS website at http://www.hhs.gov/secretary/about/lgbthealth.html

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