HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on LGBT Health Awareness Week

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on LGBT Health Awareness WeekShortly after the Affordable Care Act was enacted, President Obama asked me to identify steps we could take at the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. As we mark the beginning of LGBT Health Awareness Week, I am proud to say that we have been working hard to ensure LGBT Americans have the same rights and protections as other Americans.

For example, we have released rules requiring Medicare and Medicaid-participating hospitals to allow visitation rights for same-sex partners. This means LGBT Americans now have the same opportunities as other Americans to be with their families and loved ones when they are sick.

LGBT Americans have experienced – and continue to experience – health disparities and are more likely than other Americans to be uninsured or underinsured. Now, because of the Affordable Care Act, our major national health surveys are beginning to include data on LGBT populations. This will give us the information we need to target and reduce disparities among this group going forward.  We have also formed an internal working group to ensure we’re developing and coordinating policies targeted at increasing access to care for LGBT Americans and addressing their special health care needs.

Globally, we are leading efforts to advance a World Health Organization resolution supporting the health of LGBT populations around the world through equal access to health care services and by breaking down stigma and discrimination that create barriers to care.

In addition, like all Americans, LGBT individuals will continue to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. Beginning in January 2014, Americans will have access to quality, affordable coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace—where they can begin to shop for and easily compare health insurance plans starting in October 2013.

Starting in 2014, Americans will no longer be denied coverage or locked out of the health insurance market just because they are sick or have a pre-existing condition. And millions of Americans with private insurance and Medicare already have access to preventive services like blood pressure screenings at no cost to them.

You can learn more about the new Marketplace—and sign up for updates about enrollment—by visiting www.HealthCare.gov/Marketplace.

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