Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Representative Tammy Baldwin Introduces Legislation to Identify LGBT Health Disparities

Yesterday, Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Health Data Collection Improvement Act (H.R. 6109), a bill that would improve the health care system for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect voluntary data on sexual orientation and gender identity in programs and surveys supported by the Department.

“Currently, the federal government does not collect any information about the health and well-being of LGBT Americans. Consequently, our knowledge of the health of the LGBT community is drastically insufficient and our current health care system fails LGBT individuals on many levels,” said Representative Baldwin. “Although we have ample anecdotal evidence of LGBT health disparities, only valid research data will allow us to take critical steps toward improving the health of LGBT Americans and their families,” Baldwin said.

As was the case for other minority communities in the U.S., federal health surveys can illuminate disparities and differences, and help to determine program priorities for federal, state, and local government. Baldwin’s legislation parallels the data collection requirements in current law for data on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status.

Baldwin’s legislation requires the Secretary of HHS to incorporate standards for the development of questions and the appropriate and confidential collection of information on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also directs that this information be analyzed to assess disparities in health status and access to healthcare. Ultimately, H.R. 6109 will allow health researchers, LGBT community organizations, and government agencies to better assess the health and wellness issues affecting the LGBT community and individuals. In addition, it will allow both private and public funds to better target evidence-driven LGBT health programs.

We applaud Congressman Baldwin for her continued leadership on this matter, and we believe the legislation is a good first step to better understanding ways to improve the overall health and well-being of LGBT Americans and their families. Moving forward, this legislation will be considered today at 4 pm by the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee – the Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing on pending public health legislation, which included the Health Data Collection Improvement Act. You can view the hearing at 4 pm here. The bill will then be marked up by the Health Subcommittee tomorrow, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as it continues to advance in the House.

To learn more about PFLAG’s work on improving federal data collection, please be sure to visit our website.

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