As we told you earlier this week, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Health Data Collection Improvement Act, a bill that would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal health surveys and programs. This data would provide invaluable information about the health needs of LGBT people and help the federal government begin to address the health disparities facing our community. The bill was discussed as part of a hearing on several public health bills held yesterday by the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
This morning, the Subcommittee held an uneventful markup of the 15 other bills, passing them onto the full Energy and Commerce Committee by unanimous votes. Congresswoman Baldwin’s bill, however, raised Republican objections – with Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), for example, stating that, “for the life of me I do not see any reason at all to do this bill.” Barton offered an amendment to gut the bill, which failed to pass, as did an amendment offered by Congressman Joseph Pitts (R-PA) that would prohibit HHS from designating LGBT people as a health disparity population, even if the new health data showed that we do indeed suffer health disparities. In the end, with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and, of course, Congresswoman Baldwin forcefully defending the bill, it passed out of the subcommittee by a party-line vote of 12 to 10, and will be taken up by the full committee next week.
Republican members of the Energy and Commerce promptly issued an offensive press release, entitled “Democrats Insist on Sexual I.D. Questions for Patients at HHS Health Clinics.” While the bill simply permits the Secretary to collect data where she deems it appropriate, and only on a voluntary basis with significant privacy safeguards in place, in the release Rep. Barton calls the bill “grossly intrusive.”
Opposing data collection aimed at making LGBT people healthier. Data collection. A new low for House Republicans.