Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.

(Washington, D.C., July 13, 2011)—On July 11, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) included protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in its road map to help states establish Affordable Insurance Exchanges. These Exchanges, which are part of the Affordable Care Act, are state-based, one-stop marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can research affordable private insurance options, determine their eligibility for various policies, and enroll in private healthcare plans, including plans that are similar to those available to members of Congress. These Exchanges will qualify for various tax credits and, because they are competitive, will make it much easier for individuals and small employers to buy private, affordable healthcare plans.

While HHS’s roadmap is only a proposed rule at this point, it prohibits Exchanges from discriminating against participants based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including in marketing, outreach, and enrollment. This is an essential non-discrimination provision for LGBTQ people, many of whom are uninsured or under-insured due to work place discrimination and harmful laws like the Defense of Marriage Act.

States must establish the Exchanges by 2014 and will have access to federal grants in order to initiate and keep them going.

Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert: 

“This rule, once adopted, will have a tremendous impact on the LGBTQ community and is an essential step to ensuring high quality healthcare coverage for all people. By prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Affordable Insurance Exchanges, HHS provides necessary protections to LGBTQ people who otherwise experience disproportionate denials of care, or encounter bias and discrimination while seeking care. We applaud HHS for creating this framework and look forward to continuing to work with the department to finalize this rule and ensure that the Exchanges guarantee inclusive and accessible health care coverage for all patients and their families.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.