Today is a special day. Today is the first National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Two Spirit (LGBT2S) Tribal Day of Action on the Affordable Care Act. On this day, as we encourage outreach and education across Indian country, we also remind ourselves and those we serve that everyone deserves to benefit from the new health care law and everyone should have equal access to health care coverage.
LGBT2S Americans, including American Indian and Alaska Native LGBT2S individuals, have encountered discrimination in the health care system for decades. Many studies have shown that LGBT2S people are affected by chronic diseases at a higher rate than other Americans. In addition, evidence suggests that at least a portion of the LGBT2S community is disproportionately uninsured. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act makes new coverage options available to all Americans and benefits families with individuals who are LGBT2S.
Plans purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace can't discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and LGBT2S individuals can't be charged a higher premium. An insurer can't deny coverage for pre-existing conditions like HIV/AIDS, cancer or mental health illnesses, and there are no lifetime limits on coverage for people with chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Legally married same-sex couples are treated equally for financial assistance when purchasing coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, regardless of where they live (even in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage).
Also, in efforts to make the online application more consumer friendly, the insurance and coverage finder feature on HealthCare.gov includes a "same-sex partner" filter allowing same-sex couples to eliminate plans from a list of insurers available in their area that don't cover both partners. Consumers looking for information on domestic partner coverage also have access to the website's regular features, such as the ability to sort based on the enrollment, out-of-pocket costs and other categories.
Everyone deserves to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. Making sure that everyone in our communities are treated equally and fairly is a fundamental part of what we do as health care providers. Please join me in celebrating the first Affordable Care Act LGBT2S Tribal Day of Action.
Mr. Geoffrey Roth, a descendent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota, is the Senior Advisor to the Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS). Mr. Roth's responsibilities include providing counsel to the Director on complex issues and administering special assignments that reflect the priorities, policies, interests and initiatives of the Agency.