Lowering drug costs, expanding affordable health insurance coverage, and banning health care discrimination is critical to improving access to comprehensive, high-quality health care and – together with other actions – advancing health equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) people in America. The Biden-Harris administration has been leading the way in ensuring LGBTQI+ individuals have access to health care, while Republicans continue to undermine LGBTQI+ rights in state legislatures by denying transgender youth access to gender-affirming care, and the ability to use preferred names and pronouns in schools, and banning drag as a form of gender expression. Policies to improve access to care and protect LGBTQI+ individuals from discrimination in health care and other settings are essential for improving the health and well-being of LGBTQI+ people nationwide.
Biden-Harris Administration Helps LGBTQI+ Americans Gain Health Coverage
Expanding Health Coverage For Millions Of Americans. Premium subsidies for people who purchase coverage on their own made available by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan helped nearly 210,000 LGBTQI+ enrollees have access to zero-premium plans. Nationwide, 20 percent of Black LGBTQI+ individuals are uninsured, compared to 15 percent of Black and 9 percent of heterosexual and cisgender individuals. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect in 2013, 34 percent of LGBTQI+ Americans were uninsured. As of June 2020, the uninsurance rate amongst LGBTQI+ individuals dropped to 16 percent. In the 2023 Open Enrollment period, a record-breaking 16.3 million Americans signed up for health insurance through the ACA, more than a 12 percent increase from the previous year.
Reversing Trump Policy Allowing Sexual Orientation Discrimination. In May 2021, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that sexual orientation would be restored as a protected class under the ACA. In July 2022, HHS put forth a proposed rule implementing Section 1557 of the ACA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in certain health programs and activities. The proposed rule affirms protections against discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity consistent with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. This proposed rule ensures that LGBTQI+ individuals aren’t denied coverage or charged more for care. This Administration’s policy reversal has been especially important with transgender rights being attacked by Republicans.
Closing The Coverage Gap Improves Outcomes For LGBTQI+ Individuals. As of June 2022, 1.2 million LGBTQI+ Americans were covered by Medicaid, and of those nearly 13 percent identified as transgender. According to a Center for American Progress survey, in 2019, the LGBTQI+ uninsured rate was 20 percent in the states refusing to expand Medicaid, compared to 8 percent in states that adopted Medicaid expansion. 29 percent of LGBTQI+ individuals faced difficulty seeking medical care when sick or injured due to cost. LGBTQI+ Americans are twice as likely to be without health insurance. Closing the Medicaid coverage gap is the single most important policy to expand coverage and reduce racial and ethnic inequities in the American health care system, and is an important policy solution for LGBTQI+ people because of the intersectional dimensions of their identities. A 2022 study found that more Black LGBTQI+ adults had Medicaid as their primary insurance compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
Biden-Harris Administration Helps LGBTQI+ Americans Age With Dignity
Millions Of LGBTQI+ Americans Able To Grow Old At Home. Federally provided home- and community-based services funds helped more than 100,000 individuals return to their homes and communities from nursing facilities between 2008 and 2019. Allowing LGBTQI+ seniors to grow old at home helps alleviate the concern older LGBTQ+ adults have about being neglected or abused, or facing discrimination in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. In President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 proposed budget, $150 million is dedicated to investing in Medicaid’s home- and community-based services to ensure more older Americans and people with disabilities have access to care in their own homes and communities.
The Inflation Reduction Act Supports LGBTQI+ Seniors. The $2,000 cap on prescription drug prices for Medicare enrollees helps LGBTQI+ seniors on Medicare, who typically suffer more from poorer health and poverty. Medication costs are a frequent barrier to managing chronic health issues. 23 percent of the LGBTQI+ community lived in poverty in 2020, compared to 16 percent of their heterosexual counterparts. When looking at further dimensions of intersectionality, members of LGBTQI+ communities of color also disproportionately faced higher rates of poverty than heterosexual members of these communities. A 2021 study found that members of sexual minority communities are more likely than heterosexual individuals to engage in behaviors to reduce the cost of medicine such as skipping doses, trying alternate therapies, or delaying refills.
Biden-Harris Administration Is Defending Transgender Americans
Supporting Gender Affirming Care. On a state-by-state basis, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is approving efforts to expand gender-affirming care under the ACA and other federal programs. HHS has also created a website and resources for LGBTQI+ youth, parents, and providers, on LGBTQI+ health and well-being and gender-affirming care.
Protecting Transgender Youth Mental Health. The Biden Administration is focusing on providing mental health support, creating a more welcoming environment in public schools, and acknowledging the positive impacts of gender-affirming care. President Biden signed the Executive Order on Advancing Equality LGBTQI+ Individuals in June 2022 to defend the rights and safety of LGBTQI+ individuals by directing relevant agencies to discredit conversion therapy, ensuring that federal benefit programs can be equitably accessed by LGBTQI+ households, and increasing federal support for family counseling to reduce the risk of family rejection of LGBTQI+ youth. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is also piloting additional dedicated services for LGBTQI+ youth in the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Stepping In When States Fail. In honor of Transgender Visibility Day in March 2022, the Justice Department issued a letter to all state attorneys general reinforcing federal transgender youth protections against discrimination and obtaining gender-affirming care. Due to the increase in anti-trans state legislation, the Department of Justice has also filed statements of interest and amicus briefs supporting legal action against state laws that restrict the rights of transgender youth.