One of the biggest changes to the health care system is here: the individual mandate. Millions of uninsuredor underinsured can now go online or talk to certified application counselorsto find insurance, see if they are eligible for federal help and buycoverage.
But with this new rollout—and perhaps the key tosuccessfully signing people up—comes education about its existence and thedetails of coverage. What’s a mandate? Will they discriminate against me? Whatam I eligible for? Will they take me if I am already sick? Can I afford this?
Millions of dollars and a lot of energy have been spenteducating the groups who need this information the most, and last week at theWhite House, attention was shifted to another, and often overlooked, group: theLGBT community, where substantial health disparities exist and one in threelow- income people are uninsured. Also, only 64 percent knew that the mandatewas coming in October and 71 percent have not heard about the new coverageoptions, a recent report sanctioned by the White House found.
To address this issue and offer guidance on outreachefforts, the White House gathered advocacy groups, community leaders, humanrights and LGBT organizations, politicians, and health care providers,including Penn’s BalighYehia, MD, MPP, MSHP an infectious diseasespecialist who is spearheading the creation of the Penn Medicine Program forLGBT Health, with funding from the University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Provost’s Excellence Through Diversity Fund.
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be particularlytransformative for many members of the LGBT community, who have often struggledto find adequate health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Yehia. “Philadelphia has one of the largest populations of LGBT people in the country.As a provider, it’s going to be important to get out into the community and workwith individuals who need access to care and help guide them through theprocess.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius ledthe briefing, and was joined by The Center for American Progress, the SellersDorsey Foundation and the Federal Agencies Project, who jointly announced thelaunch of Out2Enroll, a campaign to informLGBT communities about new coverage options available through the ACA and toencourage LGBT individuals to enroll.
“You are the leaders across this country who can reach outto your friends, and your neighbors, and your colleagues in the LGBT communityand make sure they know what is about to happen,” Sec. Sebelius said last weekat the briefing.
But the new mandatewill impact all kinds of patients. Quick facts about the ACA and theindividual mandate:Prevents insurance companies from denying orcharging a higher premium because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Can’t deny coverage because of pre-existingconditions, like HIV, cancer, mental health and substance abuse.
- There is financial help available to those whoqualify
- No lifetime limit on insurance policy; you can’tbe locked out of policy.
The new coverage options, Dr. Yehia said, will hopefullyhelp break down some of the barriers for the LGBT community and help get peoplethe care they need, when they need it.
“In spite of the fact that we have a law and in spite of thefact that people are entitled to benefits, unless they know how to connect withthe new benefits, all of this is just paper,” Sec. Sebelius said. “Ourjob between now and March 31, 2014 is to get people information about how to actuallyengage in this process.”