SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders
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For Immediate Release

April 1, 2011

SAGE Applauds the Obama Administration for Taking Steps to Improve the Health of All LGBT Americans

Department of Health and Human Services announces it will inform states about extending "spousal impoverishment" protections to same-sex domestic partners, along with other actions to support the health of LGBT people.

[Washington, DC] The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced steps to significantly improve the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, including an announcement - effective immediately - to notify states that they are empowered to treat same-sex domestic partners the same as married heterosexual couples when it comes to protection from "spousal impoverishment" under Medicaid.

"SAGE applauds the important steps taken by the Administration to ensure that the basic health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are fairly met, including the long-term care needs of LGBT older adults," said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). "We look forward to working with the Administration in continuing to improve the health of LGBT elders and other especially vulnerable members of our communities across the country."

Medicaid - the single largest payer of long-term care in the U.S. - requires an individual to spend down all of his/her assets in order to become eligible for long-term care coverage. For married heterosexual couples, Medicaid has exemptions to avoid forcing a healthy spouse to give up the family home and retirement savings, and live in poverty, in order to qualify a spouse for long-term care.

Unfortunately, these spousal impoverishment protections do not apply to same-sex domestic partners, who can be forced to choose between long term care and poverty. The HHS action will notify states about their abilities to correct these inequities.

The steps announced today by HHS also include policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in HHS employment and the administration of HHS programs; increasing the number of federally-funded health surveys that collect sexual orientation and gender identity data; and encouraging health profession training programs to include LGBT cultural competency curricula.

This announcement comes during LGBT Health Awareness week, the same week that saw the Institute of Medicine release its groundbreaking report, "The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding." The Institute of Medicine found a scarcity in research on LGBT people and called on researchers to improve data collection and learn more about the health concerns facing our communities, including LGBT older adults.

SAGE is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people. SAGE also offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE coordinates a growing network of affiliates across the country. Learn more at

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Christina DaCosta
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