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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

transgender, caduceus, medicare, gay news, Washington Blade, health, insurance

(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

manual, gay news, Washington Blade

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

Barack Obama, Global AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

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

Health reform will help curb anti-LGBT bias

healthcare, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by iStock)

By DANIEL BRUNER & ERIN LOUBIER

The Affordable Care Act is the most far-reaching reform of our nation’s health care system in decades. There are particularly exciting implications for the LGBT community and for persons living with HIV/AIDS. The ACA’s sweeping prohibition of health care discrimination on the basis of sex promises to give advocates and the federal government a powerful new tool against LGBT discrimination by health insurers and health care providers.  And, the new health insurance exchanges will give LGBT individuals and families, and persons living with HIV/AIDS, new access to nondiscriminatory and affordable health insurance that includes coverage of a broad range of “essential health benefits.”

A new tool to fight transgender and sexual orientation discrimination in health care, Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, age, race, color or national origin, by a broad range of health insurers and health care providers.  The actual scope of the new law will be fleshed out in federal regulations and court decisions, but the law clearly covers any doctor, hospital or health clinic that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, and any health insurer operating under the new exchanges. There is a strong argument that the statute’s prohibition of sex discrimination includes discrimination against transgender persons, and also discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Whitman-Walker Legal Services will be urging an expansive interpretation of the law. You can help by contacting us at 202-939-7627 if you encounter any health care discrimination because you are transgender or gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In addition, the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is planning to issue regulations under the new law, is seeking information about the extent of discrimination in health care. If you have encountered health care or health insurance discrimination because of being LGBT or living with HIV, you can tell your story directly to OCR by submitting a formal comment online, through Sept. 30, at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/08/01/2013-18707/request-for-information-regarding-nondiscrimination-in-certain-health-programs-or-activities.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, health insurers will be required to provide nondiscriminatory coverage, including a package of “essential health benefits,” without regard to HIV status or other health conditions. This is great news for the LGBT community, which has lower levels of health insurance than the general population, and for people living with HIV/AIDS, who have been subjected to systematic discrimination by health insurance companies since the beginning of the epidemic.

Starting Oct. 1 of this year, health insurance exchanges in D.C. and in Maryland, and a federally run exchange for Virginia residents, will begin operations. With some exceptions, starting Jan. 1, everyone will be required to carry health insurance. If you are currently uninsured or are dissatisfied with your current insurance, there will be web sites that will enable you to see what health plans are available and what they will cost. Specially trained experts – In-Person Assisters (also called Navigators or Connectors in Maryland) – will be available at numerous sites to provide free counseling and help with enrollment. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for help with the premiums and with deductibles and co-payments. Very low-income individuals and families may be eligible for free coverage through Medicaid.

This year’s open season will run from Oct. 1, 2013 until March 31, 2014. D.C. residents can receive help from Assisters at Whitman-Walker. Information on other Assister programs in D.C. is available from the D.C. Health Benefits Exchange Authority at http://hbx.dc.gov or (202) 715-7576. Maryland residents should contact the Maryland Health Connection Call Center at 855-642-8572, and Virginia residents should call 1-800-318-2596 or visit https://www.healthcare.gov/how-can-i-get-ready-to-enroll-in-the-marketplace.

Dan Bruner is director of legal services and Erin Loubier is director of public benefits for Whitman-Walker Health.

22
Aug
2013

Obama renews PR push for health care law

John West, Michael Lappin, gay news, Washington Blade

John West (left) and Michael Lappin are set to save $5,200 a year under Obamacare. (Photo courtesy of Michael Lappin

For Michael Lappin and his spouse John West, the Affordable Care Act offered critical savings — more than $5,200 a year —thanks to the individual insurance policies they purchased on the Obamacare website.

Amid widespread media attention to the technical difficulties with the Healthcare.gov site, cancelled policies and loss of registration information for enrollment, the Atlanta couple represents one positive experience in accessing health care reform.

In a phone interview with the Washington Blade, Lappin said the couple, who co-founded their own business, STELLAR Mortgage Corp., was previously covered by plans that offered decent but expensive coverage.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, we’re getting new plans,” Lappin said. “We’re switching providers, keeping our same doctor, though, as our primary care physician, and between the two of us, we’re going to save over $5,200 a year on our health insurance.”

Even with the lower cost of the insurance, Lappin said the couple will enjoy lower co-pays, lower deductibles and lower out-of-pocket costs — all without help of any subsidies offered by the federal government under Obamacare.

Lappin, 44, and West, 49, married in D.C. in 2012, but applied for individual plans because they have yet to file a joint tax return. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act in June, Lappin said the couple intends to file jointly next year and may revisit the idea of family coverage.

“I believe the rates are the same if we buy individually or together, so it’s just sending two checks versus one check,” Lappin said. “But I will definitely revisit that once we have joint tax returns and make sure.”

The couple enjoys a positive outcome under health care reform as President Obama makes a renewed push for the law, saying problems with the enrollment website are fixed and healthcare.gov is now working for the vast majority of people.

During an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Tuesday, Obama touted his signature legislation in front of 19 people who also had positive experiences under health care reform.

“Now that we are getting the technology fixed — we need you to go back, take a look at what’s actually going on, because it can make a difference in your lives and the lives of your families,” Obama said. “And maybe it won’t make a difference right now if you’re feeling healthy, but I promise you, if somebody in your family — heaven forbid — gets sick, you’ll see the difference.”

As a result of the law, Obama projected that half a million people are poised to gain health care coverage through the health insurance exchanges and the Medicaid expansion beginning on Jan. 1 — some for the very first time.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, expressed solidarity with Obama in a statement the next day, saying his law is a “giant step” toward delivering health care to all Americans.

“We stand with the president in his unshakable commitment to this fundamental component of a transformed society,” Carey said. “We also encourage everyone to fully educate themselves on how to access the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.”

Upon the initial rollout of healthcare.gov, users reportedly faced numerous problems, including loading difficulties and error messages. Lappin said he and his partner initially had difficulties enrolling via the website, but eventually were able to apply.

“When I would get in, it was glitchy, but over the next probably two weeks or so, I continued to get better and I was able to get in, and get it figured out,” Lappin said.

As he’s gone back to healthcare.gov to make payments and obtain confirmation from HUMANA, his new insurance company, Lappin noticed an increase in the website’s functionality.

“I log back in now and the site seems to work,” Lappin said. “It’s much faster, much quicker, the buttons actually work and do things now. As somebody who’s started Oct. 1 through now, I can tell you, huge improvements to the site.”

Lappin said he and his spouse opted to apply for health insurance through healthcare.gov, the website for the federal exchange, because Georgia doesn’t offer its own state insurance exchange and has no website for enrollment.

LGBT advocates — and the Obama administration — have touted that health care reform provides non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the health care system. Through regulation, the Obama administration has interpreted the gender protections under the law to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Although he’s claiming significant savings under Obamacare, Lappin said he doesn’t think that’s because of discrimination faced under the previous system.

“We had individual plans, so I don’t think there was any way that anybody could have discriminated against us,” Lappin said. “It didn’t even come up in any kind of underwriting, anything that we know about.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, praised the non-discrimination protections as essential for trans people seeking health coverage.

“An important message to get out is that trans people and people living with HIV/AIDS can no longer be denied as having pre-existing conditions,” Keisling said.

Keisling said her own organization has benefited under Obamacare, saving about $250 per staff person per month on health insurance costs, or about $15,000 total.

Despite the push to promote Obamacare, most Republicans remain opposed to the law and continue hammering the administration for problems that have emerged since the rollout.

Also in this camp is the Log Cabin Republicans, which previously joined with conservative groups in signing a letter calling health care reform “tyrannical.”

Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said he’s heard horror stories from members about their efforts at enrolling in healthcare.gov.

“Premiums are going up, some members have had no luck signing up on the website even after making repeated good faith efforts, people have been unable to change their information after it has been entered and connected with their Social Security number,” Angelo said.

Angelo said he couldn’t find a member willing to speak publicly about the problems.

For his part, Obama said during the White House event he’s open to ideas about changing the law, but won’t go back to the way things were before his health care reform was in place.

“I’ve always said I will work with anybody to implement and improve this law effectively,” Obama said. “If you’ve got good ideas, bring them to me.  Let’s go. But we’re not repealing it as long as I’m president.”

04
Dec
2013

Colorado insurer offers trans coverage

Denver, transgender, Colorado, gay news, Washington Blade

Currently most plans sold in Colorado and around the country specifically bar medical care for transgender people. (Photo of Denver skyline by Stilfehler via Wikimedia Commons modified)

DENVER — A new health insurance company that is offering some of the lowest prices for health coverage in Colorado said last week it will also cover transgender care, Solutions, a project of the Buechner Institute for Governance at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver, reported.

Colorado HealthOP, a new non-profit member-owned health cooperative formed with federal grants money under Obamacare, has vowed that it will not discriminate, the project reported.

Currently most plans sold in Colorado and around the country specifically bar medical care for transgender people. That means most health carriers won’t pay for hormone treatments or gender reassignment surgeries, the article said.

18
Sep
2013