Health Equity "Next" for Lambda Legal’s HIV Project

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December 10, 2015
Lambda Legal HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes

By now, I am guessing you heard about the major decision from the Supreme Court this past June affecting the LGBT community, right? No, I don’t mean the one on marriage equality, but the other decision with a profound effect on the LGBT community—King v. Burwell.

As we all anxiously awaited the historic decision recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry, we at Lambda Legal were also eagerly awaiting the decision from the Court regarding the viability of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in states across the South and Mountain West.

Lambda Legal’s HIV Project submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in King, detailing the disastrous effects eliminating subsidies for lower and middle income individuals would have on our ability to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly in communities of color. Thankfully, the Court made the right decision in that case as well (we had a good June as a community, didn’t we?), making it very clear that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

It was the second time that Lambda Legal had participated in a Supreme Court case in which the fate of the ACA hung in the balance—and I am proud of the work we did both times. But we also know that work remains to be done, not only to ensure access to care, but also to create health equity. Achieving health equity, in contrast to a system that merely treats everyone the same, includes the idea of meeting people where they are—regardless of where that may be—and providing them with the tools, services and support they need to achieve health outcomes similar to those of everyone else.

When three major health insurance companies announced they would no longer provide coverage for lower-income people living with HIV in Louisiana, John East and Lambda Legal fought back - and won.

Achieving health equity, an area that the HIV Project will be concentrating on in the year(s) to come: supporting Medicaid expansion, ensuring that insurance plans cover HIV medications in ways that make them affordable regardless of income, and securing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for all those who need it. Even a profit-based health insurance system is supposed to spread the costs of care across all of the enrollees equally, regardless of which medical conditions a person happens to have.

That type of access and cost equality, coupled with the subsidies provided by the ACA and the extra support that the Ryan White Care Act provides to lower-income people living with HIV, will help the situation. It certainly will go a long way toward eliminating the HIV-related health disparities that currently exist and achieving the public health benefits that near-universal healthcare promises.

Lambda Legal has been and will continue to be a part of this and other important HIV-related efforts, and we hope you will continue to join us. In the HIV Project, we have been working on “what’s next” since long before people thought to ask the question!

Questions? Check out Lambda Legal’s Know Your Rights: HIV or contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.

Please join Lambda Legal today and help us achieve health equity and defend the rights of people living with HIV! Your membership gift will be matched dollar for dollar by the $1.25 million matching challenge from the estate of John Barham and Dick Auer.

King v. Burwell