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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

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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

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

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

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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

Ryan White’s mother, others urge Congress to continue AIDS programs

Jeanne White-Ginder, Ryan White, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeanne White-Ginder (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who became an internationally recognized advocate for people with AIDS until his death in 1990, urged Congress this week to continue funding the AIDS program that bears her son’s name.

At a news conference at the National Press Club on Wednesday, White-Ginder joined leaders of the AIDS Institute, a national AIDS advocacy organization, in calling on Congress to approve a $2.3 billion funding package proposed by President Obama for the Ryan White CARE Act program for fiscal year 2015.

“When Ryan was a teenager living with AIDS in the early 1990s there was little the medical community could offer him, but we tried all we could,” White-Ginder said. “Today, with proper treatment, thanks to antiretroviral medications, people living with HIV can live relatively healthy lives if they are first tested and linked to and retained in care,” she said.

“I’m in Washington to urge members of Congress to fully fund the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program so the more than half a million people currently being helped by the program continue to receive life-saving care and the ones who are not can take advantage of AIDS treatment,” White-Ginder told the news conference.

Michael Ruppal, executive director of the AIDS Institute, and Carl Schmid, the group’s deputy executive director, said the healthcare reform program proposed by Obama and passed by Congress known as the Affordable Care Act has provided private insurance coverage for many people previously enrolled in various Ryan White programs.

But the two said gaps remain in health coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS under the Affordable Care Act. They said the Ryan White programs – especially the prescription drug program known as ADAP – are critical components to the overall care needed for at least 550,000 people currently enrolled in Ryan White programs.

Schmid said the Ryan White program, among other things, is helping low-income people who obtain private insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act pay for something that healthcare reform advocates initially didn’t expect from the so-called Obamacare program – high co-payments for prescription drugs and high deductible costs for medical treatment such as doctor visits.

White-Ginder and representatives of the AIDS Institute were scheduled to visit members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon to urge them to push for passage of the Ryan White appropriations package that the Senate passed earlier this year.

Among the lawmakers with whom they were expected to meet were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the committee’s ranking minority member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who are members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health.

“For almost 25 years, the program has helped save countless lives,” White-Ginder said at the news conference. “I am here for Ryan to remind our leaders that we cannot forget him or the 650,000 others who have died of AIDS and the over 1.1 million people currently living with HIV in the U.S.”

Added White-Ginder, “It is my hope that during my visit to Capitol Hill, they will listen to the story of a mother and her son and the hope that people with HIV have today if they have access to the medical care, medications and other services that are offered through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.”

Carl Schmid, Ryan White, AIDS Institute, gay news, Washington Blade

Carl Schmid, the AIDS Institute’s deputy executive director, said gaps remain in health coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS under the Affordable Care Act. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

30
Jul
2014

To health, happiness and more Democrats

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2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and “I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy 2014.” Such is the greeting from most holiday cards.

When I hear those words from friends they mean something. But take a moment to think about what you mean when you wish someone “health and happiness” and whether you can help make those things a reality.

We know what it means to be healthy but what it takes to make someone happy is different for each of us. When I wish someone good health to me it includes supporting the Affordable Care Act since that will give everyone an opportunity to stay healthy. We should all have access to quality healthcare. Thankfully most of my friends are lucky enough to have good jobs and insurance and think nothing of asking for a flu shot when they get their annual physical. Their doctor orders tests to check cholesterol, blood sugar, maybe a PSA or Pap smear, and a myriad of other blood counts to assure their health is good and being monitored to find out early if there are indications of an illness.

We know that not everyone today has that chance. Before the Affordable Care Act, I had friends whose kids had no insurance because they lost it after graduating college. They had no job and couldn’t afford insurance. Now they can go back on their parents’ policy until they are 26. Detecting cancer at an early stage makes the chances for a positive prognosis so much greater. But a friend diagnosed with breast cancer lost her insurance and before the Affordable Care Act couldn’t find a new policy and certainly not one she could afford. So when I wish friends good health it’s a wish for everyone and by supporting the Affordable Care Act I feel I am actually doing something to make that a reality.

Happiness is another thing. What makes me happy is likely very different from what makes you happy. For some it may be getting a new puppy (not me as I am allergic). It could be a trip to Europe or a new car. For many of my friends it’s a new home or some other purchase, or even welcoming a new baby into their lives. In 17 states and D.C. it can be getting married as a same-sex couple. But it’s important that we remember that for some, happiness may be having enough money to pay the rent each month; or pay for their prescription drugs. Happiness for some could be keeping their job, finding a new job, or Congress extending unemployment insurance benefits.

For 12 million people in our country it’s not being threatened, or having your mother, father or child threatened, with deportation. It could be having confidence that your grandmother will receive an increase in her Social Security check allowing her to pay for food and rent. Happiness for some families is knowing that your partner, husband, wife or child will come home from Afghanistan this year, safe and sound, and won’t be deployed into harm’s way again. For a veteran it might be not having to wait months to get an appointment with your VA councilor or getting benefits to continue their education.

Many of the things that enable us to continue to stay healthy and achieve our own happiness do depend on government policy. I realize that many think we shouldn’t need to depend on government and that everything should be provided by the private sector or our religious institutions. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case today. So when I say let 2014 bring health, happiness and more Democrats it is because the philosophy of the Democratic Party is more in line with having government provide people with what they need when they just can’t make it on their own. It is passing decent immigration policy; a safety net for those in need including extended unemployment insurance for those out of work. It is food stamps needed even if you have a job but one that pays so little that you can’t afford to feed your kids. It is raising the minimum wage. It is government ensuring that everyone can have health insurance and that when you are older you will have a guarantee of the minimum assistance needed allowing you to stay in your home and buy food and medicine.

Until the Republican Party is once again led by more moderate and rational individuals I will continue to add to my New Year’s wishes for friends and the country that we elect more Democrats.

31
Dec
2013

Chase Brexton relocates, expands services

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Chase Brexton Health, Baltimore, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke and helped cut the ribbon at Chase Brexton’s opening last week. (Photo by Daniel McGarrity Photography)

On a comfortable, sunny morning last week, Baltimore City leaders, Chase Brexton officials and supporters as well as a marching band were on hand to officially open Chase Brexton Health Care’s new primary care facility in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood.  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Chase Brexton Health Care CEO Richard Larison were among those who offered remarks and cut the ribbon for the grand opening.

The new facility in the former Monumental Life building at 1111 N. Charles St. will allow Chase Brexton, a nonprofit provider, to expand its services. The Mount Vernon Center sees about 9,000 patients annually; the new Center will allow for more than doubling that number to about 25,000 based on projections. It features a patient-centered “pod” design and space for new obstetrics/gynecology services.

“Beginning in just a few months, hundreds of thousands of uninsured Marylanders will have access to new health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act,” Larison said. “We look forward to meeting increasing demand and educating patients with the same compassionate care we’ve provided for 35 years.”

As part of this expansion and evolution of its services, the organization is changing its name to Chase Brexton Health Care to more accurately reflect the comprehensive primary care services that it provides.

Founded in 1978 as a volunteer-run health clinic for Baltimore’s LGBT community, Chase Brexton has a history of providing care to underserved members of the community and helping patients manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV. Since then, it has expanded to a total of six locations in the region, annually serving nearly 25,000 patients from all walks of life.

Along with the newly relocated main Baltimore location, Chase Brexton has primary care offices in Randallstown, Columbia and Easton, as well as with Sheppard Pratt’s Way Station facility in Columbia. It is also provider of the student health services at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). The new facility replaces its former location a few blocks away on the corner of Cathedral and Eager Streets.

“Chase Brexton is a model of healthcare equity in Baltimore and around the region,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “For decades, it has played a critical role in our area by providing high-quality care to anyone who needs it, no matter their ability to pay. With this new facility in the heart of Mount Vernon, Chase Brexton is poised to serve many more people, including many who will be newly insured.”

Building on its comprehensive care menu that includes dental, pharmacy, mental health and substance abuse services, Chase Brexton has recently added obstetrics and gynecology care.

With Chase Brexton’s “pod” design, patients are literally at the center of their own care. Treatment rooms line the perimeter of each pod and medical staff move among the rooms to visit patients, who are able to remain in a single room for their entire visit.

Chase Brexton’s leaders two years ago purchased the Monumental Life building and began renovations to transform the 192,000- square-foot property into its new headquarters.

“The primary goal of the renovation was to respect and preserve historically significant features of the ornate Monumental Life complex while adapting and reconfiguring the property to provide much needed health services for the downtown Baltimore community,” said Kim Price, president of Chase Brexton’s board of directors.

The expansion of services does not change its mission with respect to the LGBT community, according to Dr. Julie Eastin of the Behavioral Health department.

The facility is outpatient only, and appointments are needed. To schedule an appointment, call 410-837-2050. For more information, visit ChaseBrexton.org.

03
Oct
2013