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Obama touts 7 million enrollees in health care reform

No data available on numbers of LGBT people who found coverage

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Barack Obama, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade
Barack Obama, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama touted the 7 million people who reportedly enrolled in health insurance coverage before the deadline. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama celebrated the more than 7 million new enrollees into health insurance programs Tuesday on the day after deadline for enrollment, as some advocates expressed disappointment that the number of LGBT enrollees is unknown.

Speaking before supporters of the Affordable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House, Obama touted the estimated 7.1 million new enrollees through the federal health insurance exchange as a sign of success for a law often criticized for its implementation rollout.

“Despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of problems with the website, 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through the marketplace,” Obama said.

But those numbers may be skewed. On one hand, they may be conservative estimates because they don’t count those who enrolled through state insurance exchanges, or those who received coverage through the Medicaid expansion under the health care reform law.

On the other hand, they may be inflated because they don’t count those who had to reapply after losing health insurance and don’t take into account that people need to pay their first month’s premium to enroll fully.

Obama notably did not mention Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius during his remarks. She’s been criticized for allowing the faulty rollout of the federal health insurance exchange website. Obama also didn’t disclose any demographic data on the 7 million enrollees into health care reform.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his press briefing prior to the remarks that he doesn’t yet have the demographic information for any category, even though the administration collected it during the enrollment period.

Earlier data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid demonstrate that information was collected on the basis of gender and age. Information was also collected on the basis of race, but it was optional for enrollees to identify as they were applying for health insurance.

The federal government did not collect information from enrollees about sexual orientation or gender identity.

Laura Durso, director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, said “unfortunately” there’s no way to know how many of the estimated 7 million new enrollees are LGBT.

“We all need to continue to advocate for more and better data collection so that in the future we can assess enrollment numbers among LGBT communities, along with other important aspects of health and wellbeing,” Durso added.

The White House didn’t respond to a request to comment on whether it would be open to a change in policy that allows future enrollees to identify their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gary Gates, distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles said information on LGBT enrollees would be helpful in discerning health concerns related to LGBT people.

“Tracking access to health insurance and healthcare use more generally by LGBT individuals may assist in better service provision for these needs,” Gates said. “Williams Institute research has shown that many LGBT individuals…and those in same-sex couples are less likely than non-LGBT individuals and those in different-sex couples to have health insurance. The availability of affordable health insurance as a result of the ACA could help to reduce this disparity.”

Although the process for collecting LGBT data on certain national health surveys is underway, Gates said the Obama administration could take another step to enhance the available findings.

“This may include administrative data collection activities like enrollment data, but should also include health-related surveys like the National Health Interview Survey (which still does not include any measurement of gender identity) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (where sexual orientation and gender identity measures are not included on surveys in all states),” Gates said.

Obama said during his address he’s generally open to the idea of changing the Affordable Care Act to make it work better for everyone.

“There will be parts of the law that will still need to be improved,” Obama said. “And if we can stop refighting old political battles that keep us gridlocked, then we could actually make the law work even better for everybody. And we’re excited about the prospect of doing that. We are game to do it.”

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Two arrested for lesbian couple’s murder, dismemberment in Mexico border city

Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez killed earlier this month

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From left: Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez</strong. (Photo via Facebook)

Two people have been arrested in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a lesbian couple in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez.

The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday announced authorities arrested a 25-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man and charged them with aggravated femicide.

Authorities on Jan. 16 found the dismembered body parts of Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez in plastic bags that had been placed along the Juárez-El Porvenir Highway. The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office in a press release notes the suspects murdered Ramírez and Medina in a house in Ciudad Juárez’s San Isidro neighborhood on Jan. 15.

Ciudad Juárez, which is located in Mexico’s Chihuahua state, is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Members of Comité de la Diversidad Sexual de Chihuahua, a local LGBTQ rights group, and Chihuahua Gov. María Eugenia Campos Galván are among those who have expressed outrage over the women’s murders. Activists have also urged local and state authorities to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime based on Ramírez and Medina’s sexual orientation.

Local media reports said nine women — including Ramírez and Medina — were killed in Ciudad Juárez from Jan. 1-15.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Virginia

Two anti-LGBTQ bills die in Va. Senate

Democrats maintain 21-19 majority in chamber

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two anti-LGBTQ bills died in the Virginia Senate on Thursday.

A Senate Education subcommittee voted against state Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County)’s Senate Bill 20, which would have eliminated the requirement that school districts must implement the Virginia Department of Education’s transgender and non-binary student guidelines.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee in an 8-7 vote tabled state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 177, a religious freedom measure that critics contend would have allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing.

Virginia’s statewide nondiscrimination law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Peake’s bill would have removed “the provision of the exemption for religious organizations under the Virginia Fair Housing Law that denies such exemption where the membership in such religion is restricted on account of race, color, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or disability.”

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office three days later.

Democrats, who maintain a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, have vowed to block any anti-LGBTQ bill.

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