Health Insurance Exchanges Should Collect Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

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Health insurance exchanges, established under the Affordable Care Act, are new state-based marketplaces for uninsured individuals and small businesses to shop for affordable health insurance products. The exchanges will also provide valuable new data on the health care needs of people across the United States, including historically underserved groups such as the LGBT population.

Exchanges will have the opportunity to collect these data through optional demographic questions on exchange application forms, as well as through their oversight of insurance carriers offering plans in the exchange marketplaces. If done well, data collection will help policymakers and advocates better understand and address health disparities affecting the LGBT community, while also protecting the confidentiality of those who volunteer information on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Public health practitioners and health care providers know that the future of health and health care is built on data. Data collection is indispensable to efforts to achieve better health for all by identifying, tracking, and eventually eliminating health disparities. Data help policymakers, advocates, researchers, and community members better collaborate in understanding where disparities exist, directing resources to where they are most needed, and tailoring health programs to the specific needs of diverse communities.

Sexual orientation and gender identity data will facilitate numerous activities of the health insurance exchanges, including measuring the effectiveness of health plan initiatives to promote cultural competency and quality improvement, assessing the insurance coverage needs of LGBT communities, and designing effective outreach policies and programs for connecting LGBT people and their families with affordable, high-quality coverage.

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