The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced steps to significantly improve the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, including an announcement—effective immediately—to notify states that they are empowered to treat same-sex domestic partners the same as married heterosexual couples when it comes to protection from "spousal impoverishment" under Medicaid.
Medicaid—the single largest payer of long-term care in the U.S.—requires an individual to spend down all of his/her assets in order to become eligible for long-term care coverage. For married heterosexual couples, Medicaid has exemptions to avoid forcing a healthy spouse to give up the family home and retirement savings, and live in poverty, in order to qualify a spouse for long-term care.
Unfortunately, these spousal impoverishment protections do not apply to same-sex domestic partners, who can be forced to choose between long term care and poverty. The HHS action will notify states about their abilities to correct these inequities.
The steps announced by HHS also include policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in HHS employment and the administration of HHS programs; increasing the number of federally-funded health surveys that collect sexual orientation and gender identity data; and encouraging health profession training programs to include LGBT cultural competency curricula.
This announcement came during LGBT Health Awareness week, the same week that saw the Institute of Medicine release its groundbreaking report, "The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding." The Institute of Medicine found a scarcity in research on LGBT people and called on researchers to improve data collection and learn more about the health concerns facing LGBT communities, including LGBT older adults.
Links to more information...
Institute of Medicine’s report on LGBT health - tinyurl.com/6x4wldgsageusa.org/uploads/lgbt_medicaid.pdf
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