26 posts categorized "Healthcare"

May 12, 2015

Get Into the Act

15549360990_084aba77ec_mThis year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Get into the Act.” Although unintended, the theme made me think of how often LGBT older adults have had to “act” throughout their lives – whether it was living in the closet growing-up in a time and place when it was not acceptable to be out – or the unfortunate number who feel compelled to go back into the closet as they get older and enter places where they feel more vulnerable and don’t feel safe or comfortable being out. The bottom line, of course, is that after spending a lifetime of trying to get out of the closet, LGBT older adults have earned the right to grow older in places where they don’t need to act straight and/or cis-gender, but where they can be their authentic selves.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is turning 50 this year. It serves as the country's leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, providing more than $2 billion annually in nutrition and social services. Since its enactment, the OAA has aimed to ensure that older people have the supports they need to age in good health and with broad community support. And what better time to look at the act and celebrate all that it has accomplished to enable all older adults, including LGBT older adults, to grow old and age with independence, dignity, and respect in their own communities.

It’s also a good time to consider that this primary vehicle for the delivery of supports and services to older adults makes no mention of LGBT older adults. Due to be reauthorized, SAGE is mindful that at some point in the near future, whether it’s through administrative change or legislative change, it’s necessary for this all-important piece of aging legislation to explicitly include LGBT older adults. This means, among other things, that through data collection, we might once and for all come to understand the degree to which aging programs and services are reaching and meeting the needs of LGBT older adults. And to the extent LGBT older adults are not being reached, by having targeting language, the aging network will need to step up to the plate and target services and supports to LGBT older adults.

The goal of the Older Americans Act, is in part, to reach those who are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, LGBT older adults all too often fit the bill. As we celebrate Older Americans Month it’s time for the Older Americans Act to ensure that LGBT older adults will no longer need to act, but can be their authentic selves, and get the services and supports they need. Interested in making your voice heard? Fill out our survey on LGBT voices that we'll be taking to The White House in July for the White House Conference on Aging!

This post was written by Aaron Tax, SAGE's Director of Federal Policy.

April 16, 2015

Why National Healthcare Decisions Day Matters for LGBT People

1956956_10152884827600353_5665404736844718964_oIt's National Healthcare Decisions Day! A day where folks are encouraged to think about their future and examine important end-of-life documents. Have you put your end-of-life decisions in writing? Do you have a living will? Do you have a health care power of attorney?

These questions are extremely important, especially for our community. In an emergency, would you and your partner be treated as a couple? While The White House has addressed equal visitation and medical decision-making rights for same-sex couples, there are still holes in the system that leave LGBT people open to discrimination

If you don't know where to start, our National Resource Center on LGBT Aging has a number of excellent resources on their site. These include:

Remember, just signing an advance directive may not be enough! A recent blog post from our Successful Aging program highlights an issue with advance directives -- completing the documents may not provide enough protection! For the documents to be effective, treatment providers have to know of them, and what they say. Make sure you have a conversation with your loved ones and medical providers about your end-of-life documents to keep you protected.

March 24, 2015

National LGBT Health Awareness Week: Time to Come Together


This week marks the start of the 13th Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week! As part of the LGBT State Exchanges Project at the Center for American Progress, SAGE is pleased to be a part of “Time to Come Together: Trust. Transparency. Truth.” This is a time for our community members, advocates, service providers, government officials and others to come together to advance the health and wellness of our community.

  • It’s time to TRUST that our providers and the healthcare system are sensitive to and addressing our personal identities and health needs. As our report, Out & Visible notes, 65% of transgender adults in our study feel that there will be limited access to healthcare providers as they grow older.   
  • It’s time for TRANSPARENCY in our healthcare systems to be more open and honest about services and costs to help ensure greater access to healthcare. We must advocate for authentic and complete data collection of sexual orientation and gender identity to reflect reality.
  • It’s time to tell the TRUTH. We must be honest about our sexual orientation, gender identity, and health needs with our providers and the healthcare system overall. As our report, Out & Visible shows, 43% of LGBT older people who are single and 40% of LGBT older people in their 60s and 70s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations. 

If you want to promote LGBT Health Awareness Week or get involved, please visit www.healthlgbt.org.

Yesterday also marked the 5th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)! What a long way we have come. SAGE is proud to celebrate the many benefits that have helped our community. Below are a few key facts on the ACA:

  1. LGBT Americans – who are disproportionately underinsured and uninsured – have benefited tremendously from the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Over the single year that encompassed the first open enrollment period under the ACA, the rate of uninsured low- and middle-income LGBT adults (those who can get financial assistance under the law to get covered) fell by 24%. In 2013, 1 in 3 (34%) LGBT adults with incomes under 400% of the federal poverty level were uninsured. By 2014, that number had dropped to 1 in 4 (26%).
  2. Less than $100/month: Of LGBT Americans who got financial help to purchase a plan through the health insurance marketplace last year, half are paying less than $100 a month in premiums. 
  3. 16.4 million: The Affordable Care Act was the fastest expansion of health insurance since 1965. Since the law went into effect, 16.4 million people who did not previously have health insurance are now covered.
  4. 129 million: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 129 million people no longer have to worry about an insurer denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, or a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For people who have been denied coverage when insurers have deemed being transgender a "pre-existing condition" this is a significant step toward improving health care access. For more information, see this brief from the Center for American Progress, The Affordable Care Act: Progress Toward Eliminating Insurance Discrimination Against Transgender People.
  5. 20 percent: The Affordable Care Act is now projected to be 20 percent cheaper than expected over the next 10 years, due in large part to slower growth in premium costs than expected.


February 20, 2015

LBT Cancer Support Group and Wellness Workshops

Wellness Workshop - Marjorie
LCI coordinator, Cristina Moldow, with Marjorie Fein, facilitator of the 1st wellness workshop.

Lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender people (LBT) face unique challenges after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Studies have shown that lower rates of health insurance, fear of discrimination, social isolation, and negative experiences with healthcare providers contribute to an increased risk for cancer among LBT community members. These same risk factors can then negatively impact treatment, recovery, and overall health after a cancer diagnosis. Research has also shown that social support, whether informally through friends and family or formally through group and individual therapy, can have real benefits for those living with a cancer diagnosis. Social support may reduce anxiety, stress, fatigue, depression, and the experience of pain. Support can also improve cancer patient’s follow-through with cancer treatment.

The Center’s Lesbian Cancer Initiative, SAGE, and CancerCare have teamed up to offer an 8-week cycle of free, professionally facilitated support groups and wellness workshops for LBT community members who have, or had, a cancer diagnosis. Whether it’s navigating the medical system or cancer’s effect on sexuality, self-image, and relationships, these groups offer a safe space for participants to get the support they need and share their stories.

The support group and wellness workshops are being held at the newly renovated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street. For the first time, a split format is being used. The first hour, 4:30pm-5:30pm, provides psychosocial support and participants are encouraged to attend the full cycle. The second hour, 5:30pm-6:30pm, provides wellness and educational workshops that are facilitated by a new presenter each week and participants are able to come on an as-desired basis. This format allows those who may not be able to make a weekly commitment to still benefit from our services and aids in customizing the wellness workshops to participants’ personal experience of cancer:

Wednesdays, February 4 – March 25

LBT Cancer Support Group 4:30pm-5:30pm

LBT Weekly Wellness Workshop 5:30pm-6:30pm

             February 11: Empowering Cancer Clients with Energy Medicine, with Marjorie Fein

             February 18: Legal Education and Planning, with Erica Gomez, Esq. of The Family Center

             February 25: Contemplative Practice for Cancer Care, with Charles Paccione

             March 4: TBD

             March 11: Gentle Yoga, with Siavonh Lenaburg

             March 18: I Can Breath – Writing for Healing, with Phyllis Stern

             March 25: Cooking for Fun and Healing, with Cook For Your Life

Wellness workshops’ topics and facilitators have been specially selected with the needs of LBT community members in mind. By participating in the support group and/or wellness workshops, LBT community members who are living with a cancer diagnosis will benefit from engaging with a group of people who share similar concerns and experiences. Furthermore, they will be able to engage with a variety of professionals who are culturally competent, attuned to LBT specific health concerns, and willing to engage in conversations with participants that may not happen elsewhere.

If interested in learning more about the support group and wellness workshops, please call 646.556.9294 or visit www.gaycenter.org/lci. Participation is free, but an intake is required. Weekly calendar updates are also available at www.facebook.com/lcithecenter.

 This post was written by Jhia Jackson, Lesbian Cancer Initiative Community Outreach Peer Intern.

December 9, 2014

DEC and HHS Host “Affordable Care Act and Diverse Elders” Event

Today's post is from Ben de Guzman, the National Managing Coordinator of our partner organization, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC). It was originally featured on the DEC's blog here. Follow the DEC on Twitter for more updates. 

On Tuesday, November 25, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), in partnership with the U.S. Department on Health and Human Services (HHS), hosted a briefing on the Affordable Care Act and diverse elders. As the new National Managing Coordinator for the DEC, I was excited to open the event by welcoming the audience and introducing Michael Adams, Executive Director of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), a DEC member. Michael provided a wealth of data on health care challenges faced by diverse communities, including Latinos, American Indians/ Alaska Natives (AI/ AN), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), African Americans, the LGBT community, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS. Some of the highlights of these data include:

  • AAPI Older Adults: Health disparities within a diverse AAPI elder population and the need for disaggregated data (eg. Disproportionate rates of breast cancer among Japanese and Filipino women).
  • Hispanic Older Adults: In 2009, 32.4% of all Hispanics and 5% of Hispanic seniors lacked health insurance.
  • LGBT Older Adults: Significant physical and mental health disparities: high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and more.
  • HIV Positive Older Adults: 50% of those who are HIV+ will be age 50+ by 2015—70% will be 50+ by 2020.

With this baseline of information in place, Michael introduced two important partners in the DEC’s work, Matthew Heinz, who serves as HHS’s liaison to the LGBT community and providers, and Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Both Mr. Heinz and Administrator Greenlee emphasized their agencies’ commitment to maintaining and expanding their responsiveness to diverse communities as we enter the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment.


The discussion moved to a panel format, which included Mr. Adams, Vicky Gottleich, Director of the ACL’s Center for Policy and Evaluation, and Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), another DEC member. The conversation expanded to include disparities that women face in accessing health care, as well as specific experiences Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees are having with Covered California, that state’s health insurance exchange. A vibrant Q&A session drilled down further into the issues.

With the second round of enrollment just beginning, the pending transition of political leadership in the Senate, and important conversations happening across the country around race and LGBT equality, this is an important time to be having this discussion for older adults across the spectrum. The DEC and its members continue to be at the forefront of this discussion and are committed to the wellbeing of all older adults, their families, and their communities.

October 14, 2014

The White House Highlights Challenges/Opportunities for Addressing HIV/AIDS among Gay and Bi Men

Photo 1
Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Relations, SAGE and Daniel W. Tietz Chief Special Services Officer Office of the Commissioner, NYC Human Resources Administration

Today's post is written by Aaron Tax, SAGE's SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations.

On September 26, 2014, in recognition of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Office of National AIDS Policy hosted a conference at the White House entitled “HIV among Gay and Bisexual Men: FOCUS. ACTION. IMPACT.”

Why this focus? As the White House stated, “In the United States, gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities continue to account for 63% of all new HIV infections. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy unequivocally states that “the United States cannot reduce the number of HIV infections nationally without better addressing HIV among gay and bisexual men.”’

Given this challenge, the goal of the meeting was to create actual actions steps the White House and federal agencies could take to address the epidemic and implement by the end of the Administration.

By next year, one in two people who are HIV positive will be over the age of 50. This population has higher poverty rates than their counterparts and remains more socially isolated. Yet, neither the aging network nor HIV-serving organizations have all the necessary technical skills, resources, knowledge, or general cultural competency and capacity to work with this population. Aside from an NIH working group focusing on increasing research in this area, no federal agency currently targets interventions at this population.

So as always, SAGE worked to bring an aging lens to the conversation, to highlight the lack of government action on this front.

We co-hosted a break-out session with Dan Tietz, Chief Special Services Officer, Office of the Commissioner, New York City Human Resources Administration, where we specifically focused on HIV and aging – and where we discussed a) how improve care, services, and supports for this population, and b) how to improve testing rates.

Fortuitously, next year, the White House will be hosting the White House Conference on Aging, which presents a great opportunity for the White House to specifically address the unique needs of this population and the need for the government to address the challenges raised at this day-long summit.

We look forward to working with the Administration to see a day when we have universal testing; better data collection; targeted prevention; research interventions; and targeted services and supports for older adults with and at risk for HIV.


October 8, 2014

New National Study: Five Things You Should Know About Aging and LGBT People

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. It was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Follow Robert on Twitter.

Much has been written about the growing number of older people in this country (as the baby boom generation rapidly ages), as well as the incremental shift in favorable policies and attitudes toward certain segments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. However, less public attention has been placed on the intersection of these two trends: how LGBT people experience aging, beginning in midlife all the way through later life.

BLOGCovernew research reportOut and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-76—sheds new light on these issues. Based on a 2014 nationally representative study of more than 1,800 LGBT people and more than 500 non-LGBT people, Out and Visible extensively describes how LGBT people feel and experience areas such as healthcare, finance and retirement, support systems, housing and more. The study was commissioned bySAGE and led by Harris Poll.

Here are five things this new study reveals about LGBT older people’s experiences with aging.

1. LGBT older people are concerned about their financial futures and feeling that they need to work much further into later life.  Moreover, many LGBT older people rely largely on their own knowledge and education for retirement planning.

According to this new study, 42 percent of LGBT older people are very or extremely concerned that they will outlive the money they have saved for retirement, as compared to 25 percent of non-LGBT people; and half of all single LGBT older believe they will need to work well beyond retirement age. These findings speak to the importance of public policies that protect and support employment among LGBT people, as well as the critical role that financial planning has on one’s retirement outlook (as two solutions). Additionally, single LGBT people have different needs than partnered LGBT people that merit specific attention (among other characteristics explored in this study).

2. LGBT older people report fearing that if their sexual orientations and gender identities become known by healthcare or long-term care providers, as two examples, they will experience judgment, discrimination and inferior care.

Out and Visible notes that 43 percent of single LGBT older people and 40 percent of LGBT older people age 60 and older say their healthcare providers don't know about their sexual orientations. Two-thirds (65 percent) of transgender older adults fear that they will experience limited access to healthcare as they age. Prior research has documented significant health disparities among LGBT older people, spurred by a combination of poor healthcare access and the stressors of stigma and discrimination. In contrast, candid communication between LGBT people and their providers could play a role in improving their quality of care and ultimately, their overall health and well-being.

3. The support networks of LGBT older people are shrinking, and the housing outlook for many LGBT older people isn't optimistic either.

This new study reveals that 40 percent of LGBT older people report that their support networks have become smaller over time, as compared to 27 percent of non-LGBT people. Additionally, one in eight (13%) LGBT people and one in four (25%) transgender people say they have been discriminated against when searching for housing on the basis of their sexual orientations and gender identities, respectively. Secure housing and a supportive network of friends are essential to all people as they age, especially in preventing poverty and social isolation—yet this study shows that LGBT people might be compromised in this regard.

4. LGBT people are diverse and not a monolith—and this study reveals distinct differences that are relevant to providers, government and the broader private sector.

Two notable examples from this study. According to this study, African American LGBT older people are three times as likely as White or Hispanic LGBT older people to say that people from their churches or faith are part of their support systems. Moreover, transgender older people tend to be more worried about being a burden to their loved ones (48% vs. 32%), and knowing where they will live as they grow older (42% vs. 27%) than their cisgender (non-transgender) peers. The study shows additional differences across income, age, relationship status and more.

5. LGBT older people aspire to take on many of the same activities as their non-LGBT peers—yet this study shows that LGBT people are more likely to want to serve as mentors and many fear what might transpire with these options if their sexual orientations and gender identities become known.

According to the study, LGBT and non-LGBT older people cite similar interests for their retirement years: taking part in leisure activities, travel, volunteering, starting a hobby, working part-time and joining social groups. However, key differences also emerged. According to the study, LGBT older people are twice as likely as non-LGBT older people to envision themselves mentoring others (14% vs. 7%). Also, one in four (27%) LGBT older people and one in three (33%) transgender older people feels that work or volunteer activities will not be open to him/her if others know about his/her sexual orientation and gender identity, respectively. 

This study builds on a growing body of research over the last few years that has increasingly, though insufficiently, studied aging concerns among LGBT older people.The report also offers a host of recommendations for leaders in the public and private sectors, most of which are largely centered on the importance of becoming more responsive to the diversity of LGBT people as they age. We’re all aging, regardless of where we fall on the age spectrum, and we deserve to age into systems that enrich our lives, not hinder them.  In this sense, we can all play a role in building a more equitable society.

June 20, 2014

Policy Update: FMLA Benefits Extended to Same Sex Spouses

Family illness can cause tremendous stress for caretakers, both physically and emotionally. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 addresses this issue directly by entitling eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

Millions of Americans have benefited from these provisions, but for many LGBT workers these benefits have historically been inaccessible as the government has not recognized their relationships. This challenge is exacerbated for older LGBT adults, who face striking health disparities: increased risk for certain cancers, a greater likelihood of delaying medical care, and higher rates of chronic mental and physical health conditions, including HIV/AIDS.

Given these historic challenges, today’s announcement by the U.S. Secretary of Labor marks a tremendous victory for LGBT older adults.

The announcement from Secretary Thomas E. Perez proposes a rule “extending the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act to all eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages regardless of where they live.”

This means that same sex spouses married in any state would have access to the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts—regardless of where they live. So a couple married in Massachusetts but living in a state which does not recognize their marriage would still be covered by the protections provided by the FMLA. 

According to today's statement from the Department of Labor:

Secretary Perez is proposing this rule in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, in which the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act provision that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.

The basic promise of the FMLA is that no one should have to choose between succeeding at work and being a loving family caregiver,” said Secretary Perez. “Under the proposed revisions, the FMLA will be applied to all families equally, enabling individuals in same-sex marriages to fully exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities to their families.

The extension of these benefits to same sex spouses will make a significant difference in the health and well-being of LGBT older adults across the United States—regardless of where they live.

To read the full text of the announcement, visit the Department of Labor’s web site online here

-- Posted by Kira Garcia

April 16, 2014

National Health Care Decisions Day


If you became unable to speak for yourself, how would medical decisions be made for you? We'll consider that question and others on April 16th, the 7th Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), a nationwide event promoting the importance of healthcare choices and advance directives. The LGBT community is especially vulnerable in this regard, since many hospitals restrict visitation rights to narrow interpretations of family. This day is a reminder for us all to take steps to ensure that we make our wishes clear about who may visit us and make medical decisions on our behalf in times of crisis.

  • If you don't have advance directives in place, learn how to obtain them here.
  • If you live in New York, please attend our NHDD event on April 29th. A volunteer legal team will be on hand to help navigate advance directive forms. Find out more information here.
  • For more information on the importance of advance directives and other legal documents, visit the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging's resource page.

Watch a video from NHDD explaining advance directives below.

NHDD Speak Up Video from NHDD on Vimeo.

March 28, 2014

National LGBT Health Awareness Week

Graph_stetAs National LGBT Health Awareness Week and NY LGBT Health Awareness Month comes to a close, we want our readers to know more about the health issues affecting our older adult population and how getting educated can help! Also, don't forget that open enrollment closes in just a few days! Get covered today! If you need assistance, be sure to check out SAGE's webpage on the Affordable Care Act for LGBT older adults.

While many LGBT older people engage in health behaviors that promote good health, research also shows that many LGBT older people engage disproportionately in behaviors that put them at risk, such as smoking, excessive drinking and non-prescribed drug use. In addition, many LGBT older adults delay care out of fear of discrimination from health providers, which means that illnesses go undetected until crisis hits. And more broadly, a general lack of data collection and research on LGBT elder health issues has left the field without the information they need to develop effective interventions that address LGBT older people's unique health realities. 

Did you know that:

  • According to a 2011 national study on LGBT older adults, high percentages of LGBT older people struggle with health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis, cataracts, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. Nineteen percent of LGBT elders reported having had at least one type of cancer. Read the full report. ▶
  • LGBT elders also deal disproportionately with mental health concerns, which is a primary risk factor for social isolation. According to a 2011 national health study, more than half of the respondents have been told by a doctor that they have depression; 39 percent have seriously thought of suicide; and 53 percent feel isolated from others.
  • Research shows that LGBT elders engage in health behaviors that both promote good health and put them at risk. According to The Aging and Health Report: "The majority of LGBT older adults in the project are sexually active and most engage in moderate exercise, wellness activities, and participate in health screenings. Yet, some report high-risk health behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and non-prescribed drug use. Especially at high risk are those age 50 – 64. Their rates of smoking, excessive drinking, non-prescribed drug use, and HIV risk behaviors are significantly higher than those age 65 and older." Read our resources on diabetesfalls preventionheart disease and HIV/AIDS.
  • A lack of cultural competence regarding transgender people and their health needs, as well as bias and outright discrimination by providers, create serious barriers. These barriers, together with financial barriers, mean that many transgender older adults often avoid or delay seeking care. In addition, medically necessary care related to gender transition is often arbitrarily excluded from public and private insurance. Inability to access this care can contribute to declining health, and these exclusions are often also used to deny coverage for preventive and other medical care transgender older adults need. Read more on transgender health issues. ▶