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Only 8% of Republicans say contraceptive use is “morally unacceptable”

PEW found Republicans and Democrats both oppose adultery, while GOP opposed being gay by only a slight majority.

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16
Apr
2014

Lawsuit claims trans woman denied hormone therapy

hormone therapy, gay news, Washington Blade, doctor

According to the suit, Naya Taylor requested hormone replacement therapy as part of her medically necessary, transition-related health care to treat her gender dysphoria but was refused by her primary care physician.

URBANA, Ill. — Lambda Legal last week filed a lawsuit claiming that an Illinois health care services group denied medical care to a transgender woman who requested hormone replacement therapy, LGBTQ Nation reports.

The lawsuit, filed April 15, alleges a violation of the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination provisions that require clinics receiving federal funds treat trans patients the same as others, the article said.

According to the suit, Naya Taylor requested hormone replacement therapy as part of her medically necessary, transition-related health care to treat her gender dysphoria but was refused by her primary care physician, the article said.

Taylor asserts that her doctor first claimed she was not experienced in providing hormones to transgender people even though hormone therapy is regularly provided to non-transgender patients in a variety of settings every day. Later the clinic told Taylor that it “does not have to treat people like you.”

“When they said, ‘we don’t have to treat people like you,’ I felt like the smallest, most insignificant person in the world,” Taylor told LGBTQ Nation. “The doctor and office provide hormone replacement therapy for others at the same clinic, they just refused to do that for me.”

24
Apr
2014

Study finds LGBT health care improving

LGBT Health, gay news, Washington Blade, health care, improving

(Public domain image)

WASHINGTON — A new report finds that things are improving for LGBT people because of better access to health care, Benefitspro.com, a Summit Professional Network publication, reports.

Citing a new study called “Health and Access to Care and Coverage for LGBT Individuals in the U.S.” from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the site reports findings that say that while LGBT people still tend to have more physical and mental health challenges than their straight counterparts, their needs are being increasingly recognized and met.

Researchers evaluated data from the U.S. Census Bureau, various state agencies, the Institute of Medicine, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Centers for Disease Control and more to issue the report. Recent factors such as the Affordable Care Act’s implementation and the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling were also considered, the article said.

The report credits the Affordable Care Act and the rejection of DOMA with “reshaping the health care and coverage landscape for (LGBT) individuals and their families.”

15
Jan
2014

N.C. insurer drops gay, lesbian couples

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s biggest health insurer, has canceled family insurance policies it sold last month to gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina under the Affordable Care Act, the Charlotte News Observer reports.

Blue Cross, Blue Shield, health, gay news, Washington Blade, North Carolina

Blue Cross and Blue Shield canceled family insurance policies it sold last month to gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina.

The insurer canceled policies of 20 couples — some who were legally married in states that recognize gay marriage — and encouraged them to reapply for separate insurance policies as unmarried individuals. The couples received calls from Blue Cross in mid-January, several weeks after they purchased their family health insurance, and were told their family coverage was invalid, the article said.

Blue Cross’ strategy has stung same-sex couples and gay-rights advocates because the nonprofit insurer offers domestic partner benefits to its own employees. Blue Cross insurance plans offered by large companies in North Carolina also include health benefits for employees and their same-sex partner, the News Observer said.

The problem is traced to terminology in Blue Cross policies that define “spouse” as “opposite sex.” North Carolina insurance law does not prohibit selling coverage to gay couples, but Blue Cross was legally bound by the restrictive contract language in its individual plans, said Kerry Hall, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Insurance.

Blue Cross has vowed to update the language in 2015.

29
Jan
2014

Md. clarifies non-bias rules for trans patients

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(Image public domain)

The Maryland Insurance Administration issued a bulletin on Jan. 27 indicating that insurance carriers cannot discriminate against transgender individuals in the state based on gender identity.  The purpose of the bulletin was to clarify the scope of the exclusion in the benchmark plan selected to define essential health benefits in Maryland as required by the Affordable Care Act for “treatment leading to or in connection with transsexualism, or sex changes or modifications, including but not limited to surgery.”

In other words, insurers cannot discriminate against transgender individuals under a health benefit plan on the basis of the insured’s actual or perceived gender identity for ordinary medical care but “the exclusion should be narrowly applied to items and services that are directly related to the gender reassignment process.”

The announcement was questioned by some members of the LGBT community on social media. “So this says that it is OK to discriminate against a transgender person if their medical need is transitioning,” wrote one woman who identified as trans on Facebook. “That doesn’t mean just surgery, which is relatively costly, but also allows discrimination regarding hormone therapy, which is the cost of scribbling a script and the cost of hormones, which in some cases is as little as five dollars at Walmart or CVS. All this really says is that they can’t discriminate against a transperson who has, say, high blood pressure or diabetes.”

Equality Maryland responded, “The bulletin is a first step in clarifying that transgender people in Maryland must have access to coverage and the medically necessary care they need. Further steps must be taken to ensure that Maryland law extends full and equal access for transgender people to coverage and care, including coverage for transition-related procedures and any other services that are covered for non-transgender people.”

07
Feb
2014

Time for a new employee manual

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A review of existing employment manuals is especially important when there are significant changes in the laws governing the employer/employee relationship.

By JOHN J. MATTEO

The beginning of the New Year is always a good time for companies and employers to review their existing employee manuals or employment policies to insure they are compliant with current law and with their own practices.  An old adage states that the only thing worse than not having an employment manual or written policies is to have them but not follow them. This adage reflects the need to insure that your policies comport with your company’s actual practices and that such practices are consistent with applicable law.

A review of existing employment manuals is especially important when there are significant changes in the laws governing the employer/employee relationship, as we have seen in 2013. These include the Windsor decision issued by the Supreme Court that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the implementation of some portions of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), the push for mandatory sick leave by some jurisdictions, the IRS’s continued focus on properly classifying employees v. independent contractors, and the EEOC’s stated strategic goal of focusing on workplace discrimination. Any one of these issues would require a revision to most employer’s policies and manuals, but together they call for a complete revamping and review of the way policies are formed and enforced by most employers.

D.C. employers have been used to protecting gay employees from discrimination given the D.C. Human Rights Act; however, employers in Maryland and Virginia have not had a state law with the same level of protections, although Maryland has moved in that direction. Given the Windsor decision and subsequent IRS guidance, gay couples that are lawfully married in a state or jurisdiction recognizing such unions may avail themselves of the same rights as heterosexual couples when filing their tax returns. The effect on employers in the region (where two of the three major jurisdictions recognize gay marriage) is that they cannot deny certain benefits to gay employees who are legally married. Employers should be sure that these protections are clearly set forth in their employment manuals.

Much has and will continue to be written about the ACA as its provisions are implemented but employers – especially smaller employers/companies need to be prepared. The most important lesson at this juncture is that employers with fewer than 100 employees need to begin to prepare their workers for the changes that have now been delayed until 2015. This will include mandatory participation in the local health care exchanges, as well as mandatory minimum benefits that must be provided by almost all employers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued public statements that are clear — elimination of workplace discrimination will be one of the major focuses of the commission. Accordingly, employers need to be well trained on the EEOC standards so that business owners and managers can insure adherence to EEOC rules and regulations. These standards should also be well described in the company’s employment manual and procedures so that the company has guidance, employees know their rights and if a complaint is made both parties will know the process to follow.

Another important feature that should be clearly set forth in employment manuals or procedure policies given the EEOC’s stated goals, are the rights afforded to those seeking maternity, paternity and other family leave benefits. Depending on which local jurisdiction a company is situated in and how many employees are employed, the laws will differ. It is important for the employer to know these rules, to clearly state the company policy in the manual and most importantly to consistently apply them to all employees.

These are just a few highlights of provisions that employers should make sure are part of their employment manuals or policies and are some of the most important given recent EEOC statements. Other provisions that also should be clearly defined are policies related to full time/part time distinctions, Internet use and privacy, confidentiality, termination procedures and severance benefits.

In sum, the lessons are simple — employers should be educated by a professional on the myriad laws governing the employer/employee relationship and should seek out qualified advisers to assist them in drafting consistent policy manuals to avoid the risk of employment claims.

 

John J. Matteo is president and chair, Business & Employment Practice Groups, Jackson & Campbell, P.C.

This is part of a series of articles by Jackson & Campbell on legal issues of interest to the LBGT and greater business community.  Jackson & Campbell is a full service law firm based in Washington with offices in Maryland and Virginia. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact John J. Matteo at 202-457-1678 or jmatteo@jackscamp.com. If you have any questions regarding our firm, please contact Don Uttrich, who chairs our Diversity Committee, at 202-457-4266 or duttrich@jackscamp.com.

28
Feb
2014

HHS backs gay couples, HIV/AIDS patients

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Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Obama’s health care reform law. (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

WASHINGTON — Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Obama’s health care reform law, beginning in 2015, the U.S. government said on March 14, Reuters and other media outlets reported. Insurers were encouraged to begin offering coverage this year, the article said.

HHS exercised federal authority to prevent discriminatory insurance market practices on an issue that has been caught up in state marriage laws.

The move follows a February lawsuit filed by an Ohio gay couple that was unable to obtain family coverage under Obamacare, they said, because their state does not recognize same-sex marriage, Reuters said.

“If an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses,” Dr. Matthew Heinz, who heads HHS outreach to LGBT communities, said in a posting to a government website.

The HHS also said insurers cannot turn down HIV/AIDS patients whose premiums are being paid through the federal Ryan White program, the AP reports.

19
Mar
2014

Navigating Obama’s health care reform law

LGBT groups have released a new guide to help LGBT patients navigate the health care reform law championed by President Obama. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT groups have released a new guide to help LGBT patients navigate the health care reform law championed by President Obama. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

TRENTON, N.J. — The Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress have a new guide to assist LGBT couples and parents access health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, Out in Jersey, a gay New Jersey news outlet, reported this week. The guide is a resource that will introduce families to the intricacies of enrollment, tax credits, shared responsibility payments, health insurance marketplaces and navigators, the article said.

“The Affordable Care Act will make health insurance affordable for millions of more Americans, including families with parents who are LGBT,” Heron Greenesmith, legislative counsel for Family Equality Council, was quoted by Out in Jersey as saying. “Yet LGBT families will face specific obstacles to accessing coverage because of the patchwork of federal and state laws governing health insurance. We hope this guide will serve as a basic intro to affordable health care.”

Currently, the ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and many states will be offering family plans that include same-sex parents and their children. But while the Defense of Marriage Act remains federal law, families with same-sex parents will have to apply for tax credits separately instead of as a family.

Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress have been working closely to ensure the inclusive implementation of the Affordable Care Act and will continue to advocate for and educate the LGBT community as the ACA comes into full implementation in January 2014.

19
Jun
2013

L.A. LGBT Center secures federal grant

The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, California, gay news, Washington Blade

The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. (Photo by Minaert; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center has been designated a “federally qualified health center” and was awarded a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, WeHoville, a West Hollywood news outlet, reported.

The designation is given only to clinics that meet the highest standards of care and serve underserved populations (Washington’s Whitman-Walker Health also has attained the status). The Center provides primary care services for LGBT people. The designation and award will enable the Center to eventually provide medical care for more than 4,000 additional patients, particularly low-income people on Medicaid, the article said.

The Center is one of the few LGBT clinics in the nation to receive the designation and the only such clinic in California.

“This is a huge turning point for the Center and for the LGBT community of Los Angeles because we have always believed that health care is a right for every single human being,” said Christopher Brown, the Center’s Health and Mental Health Services director in the WeHoville article. “For far too long, LGBT people have suffered discrimination in health care.”

20
Nov
2013

Trans advocacy group lauds progress

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Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director, Dr. Dana Beyer. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a statement signed by Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dr. Dana Beyer and board chair Sharon Brackett, the state’s only civil rights organization exclusively representing trans people announced significant progress has been made in assuring fair and equal implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for transgender Marylanders this October. Maryland is not only on schedule to implement the ACA, but because of early acceptance of the act, it will be among the first states to roll it out this fall.

As part of the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange (MHBE), the ACA requires that the MHBE be administered in such a manner as to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, and assess progress in providing access to care and compile data reflecting any disparities encountered, on an annual basis.

Recognizing that discrimination is illegal, the Governor’s Office of Healthcare Reform, the Health Benefits Exchange, and the Maryland Insurance Commissioner are now reviewing the plans to ensure full and equal access to care, with the goal to bring Maryland into line with jurisdictions such as California, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia that have taken the lead over the past year.

24
Jul
2013