On the morning of October 1, 2013, the first day for Americans to enroll in the new health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more the 2.8 million people tried to access the HealthCare.gov website. This volume demonstrates the significant pent-up demand for access to health care. Among those most in need of access to health insurance are LGBT Americans. Research has shown that lesbians and transgender people have lower rates of insurance, while many gay men have had difficulty getting insured due to pre-existing HIV infection or just the perceived risk of HIV. Others have been denied coverage under their same-sex partners’ employer plans. For these reasons, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will allow millions of LGBT people to access affordable insurance for the first time. The ACA is also providing additional funding to community health centers — a common health care stop for LGBT people, and other Americans who lack health insurance. This should result in the ability to serve up to 20 million additional patients who are currently uninsured.
As a resource for community health centers through our national cooperative agreement with HRSA, the National LGBT Health Education Center has made it a priority to educate our colleagues around the country about how the ACA benefits LGBT people and how to help enroll LGBT people in the new insurance marketplaces. To this end we offered the recent webinar, Optimizing Care for LGBT People under the Affordable Care Act, presented by Kellan Baker from the Center from American Progress who is a nationally recognized expert on ACA with a specific focus on LGBT people. You can view an “On Demand” version of this webinar here. In addition to the webinar, we are developing an issue brief that will be available on our website in the coming weeks.
In a press release to the LGBT media, Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius stated, “throughout the Administration, we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law. That’s why the Affordable Care Act is so important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.” Last month, Education Center Director, Harvey Makadon, and TFI Policy Director, Sean Cahill, authored a piece in the Huffington Post that summarizes many of the concrete benefits of the ACA for LGBT people (these are also presented as part of Kellan Baker’s webinar on the ACA). These benefits include:
- Nondiscrimination protections: Public and private health insurers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.
- Insurance market reforms: The Patient’s Bill of Rights phases out annual and lifetime limits on coverage, ends preexisting condition exclusions, and ends arbitrary rescission of insurance coverage. These protections are especially important for transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS.
- Prevention and wellness: Certain preventive services particularly important to LGBT people will soon be covered by insurance as Essential Health Benefits, including HIV testing, depression screening, and tobacco use screening.
- New coverage options: Subsidies will allow millions of working-class people, including LGBT people, to afford to buy health insurance for the first time.
- Data collection: The ACA authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to expand the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data on national health surveys that help us better understand LGBT health and prioritize spending and research priorities.
The team at the Education Center is excited and proud to be doing our part to help bring these benefits to the LGBT community and looks forward to the time when health disparities in our community are reduced through full access to health care services.