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GLMA is a leader in the LGBTQ health policy realm, working closely with policy-makers at all levels to support our mission to ensure equality in healthcare for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals and healthcare providers.

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GLMA’s policy and advocacy work includes:

Capitol Hill Briefings on LGBTQ Health
During LGBT Health Awareness Week 2012, GLMA President Desiray Bailey, MD, joined a distinguished panel for two Congressional briefings to explore the unique social, economic and legal impediments to LGBTQ family health and well-being in the US. The National Coalition for LGBTQ Health, in partnership with GLMA, the Family Equality Council, the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign, organized the Congressional briefings, which were each attended by about 50 Congressional staffers, advocates, healthcare providers and members of the community.

Amicus Brief Supporting Successful Defense of the Affordable Care Act
In 2012, GLMA joined a friend-of-the-court brief to the US Supreme Court supporting the expanded healthcare access and coverage available for people living with HIV/AIDS under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, and in particular the minimum coverage requirement or individual mandate, had been challenged as unconstitutional but the Court, in a historic decision, upheld the mandate. The brief was authored by Lambda Legal and was joined by about 15 other HIV advocacy organizations. The brief outlines how healthcare reform with an individual mandate, as was enacted in Massachusetts, can improve health concerns for people living with HIV.

Policy Changes on Hospital Visitation and Nondiscrimination
In April 2010, after the culmination of a year-long process involving a coalition of LGBTQ groups organized by GLMA, Jackson Memorial Hospital announced significant policy changes that would result in better care for LGBTQ patients and families. The hospital put in place a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, a patient's bill of rights that demonstrates the hospital's commitment to providing quality care for LGBTQ patients and a visitation policy that updates the definition of family to include same-sex partners and other people who may not be legally related to a patient.

GLMA became involved in this case after learning about Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of Janice Langbehn and her children. While at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Langbehn claimed she and her children were subjected to verbal harassment and denied visitation with the children’s mother and Janice’s partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, who subsequently died in the hospital while being treated.

President Obama subsequently learned about Janice’s story, which prompted him to issue a memo to US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her to issue regulations to ensure hospitals cannot deny visitation based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories. GLMA and other LGBTQ organizations supported and helped shape these regulations, which became final in 2010 and, as a condition for participation in Medicare and Medicaid, apply to almost all hospitals in the nation.

In addition, the Joint Commission issued new patient-centered standards, which took effect in 2012, that included requirements for hospitals to adopt nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity and equal hospital visitation policies. GLMA staff and board members served on the expert advisory panel that helped develop the new standards.

Letter to CMS in Support of Including Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity in Electronic Health Records
In 2012, GLMA, joined by Lambda Legal, submitted a letter to HHS in support of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity data in electronic health records (EHR), primarily focusing on the importance of inclusion as “crucial to improving the quality and efficiency of the healthcare LGBTQ people receive, and to addressing the significant health disparities that the LGBTQ population experiences.” Later in 2012, the Institute of Medicine, in follow-up to its groundbreaking report on LGBTQ health, held a one-day workshop on inclusion in EHR, attended by GLMA staff and board members, and issued a report on this workshop in late 2012. In early 2013, GLMA joined a follow-up letter to HHS calling for inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in EHR as part of Stage 3 of the definition of meaningful use of electronic health records.

Amicus Brief in Supporting Job Applicant with HIV
In July 2011, GLMA submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, presenting information about advancements in medical treatment of HIV. The brief was in support of a lawsuit in which an Atlanta police department candidate was denied employment because of his HIV status. In a unique turn of events, just one week after hearing oral arguments, the court ruled in favor of the police officer candidate, allowing his discrimination lawsuit against the Atlanta Police Department to move forward. The police department subsequently settled the lawsuit, agreeing to pay $250,000 to the officer candidate, who was represented by Lambda Legal.

GLMA’s brief helped break down the myths and stereotypes about what it means to be a person living with HIV. By presenting the most up-to-date scientific information on the treatment of HIV, GLMA helped demonstrate that there was no medical reason for the city to suggest the plaintiff should have “no physical contact or involvement with individuals” and therefore deny him employment as a police officer.

Supporting Cultural Competency Requirements
GLMA has been an advocate for state legislation requiring health professional to take continuing education courses in cultural competency to serve LGBTQ patients. In 2011, GLMA supported California’s SB 747, a bill which would have required this continuing education focus. The bill made it through the legislature but was ultimately vetoed. GLMA has worked on similar legislative issues in Oregon and Washington, and will focus efforts on additional states in the future.

Supporting Health Professional Association Resolutions
At the request of the LGBT Physician Assistant Caucus, GLMA submitted letters in support of two resolutions that were considered, and ultimately adopted, by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) House of Delegates during its Annual Meeting in May, 2012. The policies relate to supporting HPV vaccination in boys and young men and also to supporting efforts to decriminalize HIV transmission.

GLMA endorsed three LGBTQ-specific resolutions considered during the AMA’s House of Delegates meeting in 2012. The resolutions related to AMA: (1) support for marriage equality; (2) support for training healthcare providers “in cultural competency as well as in physical health needs” of LGBTQ patients; and (3) development of partnerships with other organizations to reduce suicide and address the health needs of LGBTQ youth.

National Data Collection
Data collection has long been a top priority for GLMA and fellow LGBTQ health advocates. The lack of inclusion of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in national health surveys has frustrated efforts to get a true sense of the extent of health disparities affecting LGBTQ people. As a result of advocacy by GLMA and a coalition of LGBTQ organizations, in June 2011, Health & Human Services (HHS) announced that under provisions of the Affordable Care Act it would begin to incorporate questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the National Health Interview Survey, which serves as the primary source of health information about the US population. The NHIS started including questions on sexual orientation in 2013, with plans to include gender identity at a later time.

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