I am as pleased as the next guy that President Obama has made health care reform a priority. In the last few weeks, we've seen the House and Senate release draft reform bills, and the profit mongering executives of HMOs are actually slightly worried that this country is finally going to stand up for itself. All of the policy nitty-gritty has been well covered by Managing Editor Alex Blaze on this blog:
Universal Health Care's Back, June 8th; Health Care Reform Week, Not Weak Health Care Reform, June 21st; and Tammy Baldwin Introduces LGBT Health Care Bill, June 24th
In addition to the historic possibility of affordable public health care (you know, just like in other developed nations), the debate around this legislation offers an unparalleled teachable moment to "reform" the discrimination against LGBTQ people and people living with HIV out of the health care system. This is an opportunity for LGBTQ and HIV-positive communities to educate lawmakers about our experiences accessing care, and press for non-discrimination and cultural competency components in the legislation that moves forward.
As a transgender person, I'm intimately familiar with discriminatory insurance exclusions for "transition related" services (believe me, it's defined broadly by HMO bureaucrats). But that's only one of many, many issues that health care reform must address for our community. Here are a few other real examples from Lambda Legal's case histories:
- A gay man is denied medical care because the doctor disapproves of him and his partner having a child with a surrogate mother.
- A man with HIV is refused back surgery because the surgeon is unwilling to operate.
- A lesbian is not allowed to sit by the bedside of her partner who lies dying in the hospital because hospital employees don't recognize their relationship as valid.
As much as I hope these stories are a surprise to you, it's more likely that you have an example or two from your own experience to add to the list. In a new national Health Care Fairness campaign, Lambda Legal--with partner organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the National Coalition for LGBT Health--is conducting a national survey to document the unique health care experiences and needs of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. The data collected from this survey--your stories and mine--will be a powerful tool in educating Congress about our interactions with the health insurance/care system and in making sure we are also included in the agenda for national health care reform.
Over 2,000 people have already taken the survey already, and I hope that you and your friends and loved ones will also add your voices. The survey, which closes on July 10th, is completely anonymous and confidential. The data is so, so helpful to future public education and lobbying efforts for our communities. I urge you to spend 10 minutes of your lunch break taking the survey. And if "prizes" are a motivation, survey respondents will be entered to win one of 20 $50 Amazon.com gift certificates.
Take the survey in English here.
Take the survey in Spanish here.