Discussing LGBT Health

The White House holds its first conference on LGBT health at the Mazzoni Center

Kathleen Sebelius (courtesy of Health and Human Services)

Yesterday’s LGBT Health Conference with the Mazzoni Center was a first for the White House. The big talk? Healthcare issues facing the LGBT community around the country, as well as a little campaign season stumping. The event was the first in a series of White House LGBT Conferences that will be held across the country this year.

The event was attended most notably by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who gave the morning address at Jefferson Hospital. Her main focus was on how healthcare doesn’t always work for LGBT Americans (fears of coming out, lesser coverage and problems with coverage when marriage isn’t legal for couples) and what the Obama administration would like to do about it. While she didn’t go into specifics, she called for a conversation on the issues that are most important to the LGBT community.

“Given the discrimination that often is faced in the workplace, LGBT Americans often have a harder time getting access to employment-based coverage,” she said, ” but all Americans, regardless of where they live, what age, sex, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a basic right to get the health care they need here in the United States, and that’s a principle we are committed to fighting for in this administration.”

John Berry (courtesy of the Office of Personnel Management)

Other high profile officials attending the event were John Berry, the highest out member of the executive branch – he’s the director of the Office of Personnel Management – and Gautum Raghavan, the LGBT liaison within the Office of Public Engagement.

In addition to general healthcare concerns and pit falls, like standards in which medical professionals treat LGBT patients and access to partner-based insurance in states that don’t allow marriage or civil unions, other discussions focused on HIV and AIDS, bullying and even housing concerns and health issues impacting seniors.

Sebelius said that the administration is working with the Office of Minority Health to include sexual orientation and gender identity within its language to ensure better standards are met for the LGBT community, though no other regulations are being discussed at this time.

Mayor Michael Nutter also attended the event, welcoming White House officials to the city, as well as Mazzoni staff and other LGBT leaders.