I remember that spring day in March of 2010 when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some sighed relief, some talked about the amazing opportunities of this reform, while others actively engaged in conversations, exchanged misinformation, and questioned what this truly meant and will continue to mean to the future of employers, of business owners, of insurance companies, of seniors, of women, of families, of students, in fact, to the entire nation (http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/myths-and-facts). But despite the many myths, questions, and confusion that some felt, most recognized that the reform revolutionized people’s hope for a more healthy and promising future. It’s one step further into stabilizing the nation financially; into securing and standardizing healthcare; it is viewed as the nation’s sincere efforts to control the insurance industry’s reputation of making money off consumers, yet providing them with limited care or lack of compensation/refund for services not expended; it is viewed as our government “being humane” and sincere in caring for the hardships and well being of all Americans, particularly the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions; it’s the nation’s effort in changing the dynamics, the image, the investments, and the importance of public health (http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/healthcare-overview).
This reform opens so many doors…but wait, does the reform include a specific marginalized population that, medically speaking, our healthcare system has not been fully designed and mature to implement best practices in an effort to address health disparities of, nor has adequately collected the most representative data on (Baker, 2011-2012)? Well, yes it does include this group!!! Which? The LGBT community. As Kellan Baker strongly emphasizes, this law “offers many opportunities to advance health equity for the LGBT population”, particularly more accurate, informative, and strong sustainable data collection, as well as advocating for interventions and preventive measures that are unique to this population (2011-2012). Every parameter of this new law includes them, but what about transgendered medical care? According to Baker’s deep analysis and recommendations, ACA doesn’t define needed gender transition medical care coverage within the essential benefits (pg. 68, 2012-2012) of this law, nor does it defend it within the benchmark options provided to state insurances despite advocacy from professional medical entities such as the American Medical Association (pg. 67, 2011-2012). Although states like California can implement laws to include such necessary medical care [just as services that are “routinely covered for non-transgendered people”] (Baker, pg. 67, 2011-2012), what happens if they don’t? Perhaps we can rely on the administration’s efforts in investing more funds to help address disparities, through the development of a more culturally competent workforce or investing in more community health centers, which may contribute to more research that would better inform health policies (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/the_aca_helps_lgbt_americans.pdf). Either way it’s up to us as citizens, as professionals, as family, as a country, to put our prejudices aside and simply think of human life, of basic human rights and best practice of medical care to all. As the Obama administration supports and Baker’s article strongly emphasizes, we must take advantage of this groundbreaking reform to communicate, educate, and mobilize the community that this law is also very important to LGBT (Baker, 2011-2012) Americans because “we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/09/17/obamacare-and-lgbt-health-1).
As I mentioned earlier, this is just one step closer to the overall goal and hopes of many Americans. I’m often inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech – historically many lives have been jeopardized by misunderstandings, social injustices, and such but it is up to us to help bridge the gap and close the loops. We may not have all the answers now, but we must take advantage of all opportunities available to help get to the answer, thus I strongly agree with US HHS Secretary Sebelius that the “ACA may be the best opportunity we have ever had to begin closing LGBT health disparities” (Baker, pg. 70, 2011-2012). It is exciting to see what will continue to evolve, but America is setting the precedence to health governance globally.
Baker, K. (2011-2012). Where do we go from here? Incorportating LGBT-inclusive health policies in affordable care act implementation. LGBTQ Policy Journal at the Harvard Kennedy School, vol 2, 61-71.
Health care that works for Americans: About the new law. (n.d.). The White House. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/healthcare-overview
Health care that works for Americans: Myths and facts. (n.d.). The White House, Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/myths-and-facts
Health care that works for Americans: Relief for you. (n.d.). The White House, Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/relief-for-americans-and-businesses
Obamacare and LGBT health. (n.d.). The White House, Retrieved September 19, 2013, from http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/09/17/obamacare-and-lgbt-health-1