LGBT Leaders Attend White House Health Summit

LGBT leaders were among 150 people invited to the White House for a health care forum in which the Obama administration launched an effort to reform the nation's health care system.

BY Kerry Eleveld

March 06 2009 12:00 AM ET

President Barack Obama
kicked off the White House Forum on Health Reform Thursday by
instilling a sense of urgency among about 150 participants --
congressional members and organizational leaders -- who had
been invited to discuss ideas and concerns as the
administration attempts to overhaul the nation's health care
system.

"Let's be clear: The
same soaring costs that are straining our families' budgets are
sinking our businesses and eating up our government's budget
too," Obama said. "That is why we cannot delay this
discussion any longer. And that is why today's forum
is so important -- because health care reform is no longer just
a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative."

Several LGBT leaders
were invited to observe panel discussions at the summit,
including Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights
Campaign; Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force; and Rebecca Haag, executive director of
AIDS Action. Frank Oldham, executive director of the National
Association of People With AIDS, spoke on a panel at one of the
four breakout sessions Thursday afternoon but could not be
reached for comment for this article.

LGBT people have a
particular stake in health reform since many members of the
community experience greater barriers to accessing
care.

"With the inability
to get married for so many of us, unless we're fortunate enough
to work for a place that has domestic-partnership coverage, we
don't receive coverage or our children don't receive
coverage," Rea Carey said. "So whatever comes out of this
legislatively or administratively, we need to be looking at the
definition of 'family,' particularly if people will continue to
get access to insurance through their employers."

Carey also noted that
gays are much more likely to experience disruptions in work
because so many states lack employment
protections.

"Many LGBT people
disproportionately move from job to job because they might be
fired for being gay, which sets them up for carrying a
preexisting condition in their next employment situation, and
they really don't receive the full access to health care,"
Carey said. "This is particularly true for transgender
members of our community."

Rebecca Haag was
focused on the need to ensure that HIV-positive individuals and
those at risk for infection are considered in any policy
changes.

"There's still 50% of
the people living with HIV in this country who aren't in care
and treatment," she said, "so we want to make sure those
interests are covered through how Medicaid will include HIV as
a disability and how private insurance will not discriminate
against people if they have a preexisting condition." Private
insurers often decline to cover people who have previously been
diagnosed with a fatal or chronic illness.

Tags: Politics

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