U.S. representative Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin today introduced legislation aimed at improving the health care system for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
The Health Data Collection Improvement Act would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to collect voluntary data on sexual orientation and gender identity in programs and surveys supported by HHS.
"Currently, the federal government does not collect any information about the health and well-being of LGBT Americans. Consequently, our knowledge of the health of the LGBT community is drastically insufficient and our current health care system fails LGBT individuals on many levels," Baldwin says. "Although we have ample anecdotal evidence of LGBT health disparities, only valid research data will allow us to take critical steps toward improving the health of LGBT Americans and their families.”
As was the case for other minority communities in the U.S., federal health surveys can illuminate disparities and differences, and help to determine program priorities for federal, state, and local government. Baldwin's legislation parallels the data collection requirements in current law for data on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status.
Baldwin's legislation requires the HHS secretary to develop standards for the development of questions and the appropriate and confidential collection of information on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also directs that this information be analyzed to assess disparities in health status and access to health care. Ultimately, the bill will allow health researchers, LGBT community organizations, and government agencies to better assess the health and wellness issues affecting the LGBT community and individuals. In addition, it will allow both private and public funds to better target evidence-driven LGBT health programs.
Congresswoman Baldwin, cofounder and cochair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, has been advocating for such health data collection for many years. The HHS Secretary's Advisory Committee of Healthy People 2020 has highlighted the need for improved data collection in the LGBT community.