National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Attends White House Latino Health Policy briefing

By Patrick Paschall, Policy Counsel, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

(This was originally posted to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Blog.)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the White House about Latino Health Policy. This was a briefing organized by our friends at the National Council of La Raza, and was an excellent opportunity to hear from a variety of government officials about ways in which the administration is working to eliminate health disparities among the Latino/a population.

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I learned a lot of interesting things and heard from an impressive list of speakers, including Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the directors of many agencies within HHS.

While I knew the Affordable Care Act did a lot to help Latino/a people, I didn’t realize some of the striking information that was shared at this meeting. For example, nearly one-third of Latino/a people were uninsured in 2011, higher than any other racial or ethnic group. And 20% of low-income Latino/a youth have gone a year without a health care visit – a rate three times higher than that for high-income whites.

But what was really striking is just how substantial an impact the landmark health reform law has on this vulnerable community. For example, because of the ban on lifetime dollar limits — the practice that insurance companies use to claim you’ve spent too much on health care so we won’t pay for your needs anymore — has made it so 11.8 million Latino/a people no longer have to worry about going without cancer treatments or other life-saving treatments because of dollar limits.

Additionally, insurance companies are now required to allow parents to keep their children up to age 26 on their insurance plans. This means that over 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage because of the new health care law, including 736,000 Latino/as.

You can find more information on these issues at:

We also know from Injustice At Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey that the impact of racism and transphobia has a devastating impact on Latino/a transgender people. The report, which was conducted by the Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, found that:

  • Latino/a transgender people an HIV-positive rate 14 times greater than the general population.
  • 23% were refused medical care due to bias.
  • 36% reported postponing care when they were sick or injured due to fear and discrimination.
  • And a striking 47% of Latino/a transgender people have attempted suicide.

At the Task Force, we have always held ourselves out as a progressive organization — an LGBT voice in the progressive movement and a progressive voice in the LGBT movement. We focus our work at the intersections of race, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ability and a whole host of other intersecting identities. The White House Latino Health Policy briefing is just another example of that voice — we were the only LGBT group in the room and the conversation wasn’t focused on LGBT specific issues. But we went to the briefing because we understand the importance of intersecting identities and of working with other marginalized communities to build our collective political power.

The expansion of health insurance access helps us all — especially those that are most vulnerable in our society. We have talked about it on this blog frequently – we co-hosted a webinar with the Center for American Progress to explain how the health reform law helps LGBT people, we’ve talked about the changes to cover women’s preventive services with no co-pay and we have highlighted the opportunities for LGBT people to find health insurance coverage for themselves and their families through the health plan finder tool.

But it is also important for us to understand the impact of discrimination and health disparities on marginalized communities other than just the LGBT community. And the White House Latino Health Policy briefing was an enlightening glimpse at a world of health policy work that still needs to be done and a review of the recent progress we’ve seen. We would like to extend a huge thanks to our friends at the National Council of La Raza for inviting us in to the discussion and continuing our important partnership in this work.

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