By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 11/24/2009 10:53:54 AM ET 2009-11-24T15:53:54

Claim: The House bill includes a specific provision benefiting gays, lesbians and transgender people.

A major topic in the House insurance reform bill is how the federal government can identify and try to reduce health disparities, which the bill defines as differences among groups of people in the prevalence of disease, in disease outcomes, or in access to medical care. Congress already requires an annual report on health disparities which is conducted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The report looks at groups of people differentiated by age, sex, race, ethnicity, immigration status, English proficiency, income, rural residency, and disability. The most recent report, released last March, found, for example, that the incidence of new AIDS cases was more than 9 times as high for blacks as for whites.

Fact or fiction?
Fact. The House bill proposes to spend $15.4 billion in the first five years after enactment to study and promote disease prevention and wellness, including efforts to diminish health disparities between different populations. The bill uses these categories: "race, ethnicity, primary language, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, socio-economic status, or rural, urban, or other geographic setting, and any other population or subpopulation determined by the Secretary (of Health and Human Services)." This language is "very significant," said Brian Moulton, legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group. It "would be the first time that federal law has included sexual orientation and gender identity as categories related to health disparities." The bill "will result in more accurate data on LGBT health needs" and "open up federal grant money to efforts focused on those needs," he said.

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