The U.S. Supreme Court will be ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e. “Obamacare”) in June. This decision will determine whether the nation will undergo the largest advance in our healthcare system since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the ‘60s. ¹
Getting informed about the tenets of the Obama administration’s healthcare overhaul can be daunting. Many of us have heard that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is over 2,000 pages long, and it can be difficult to translate into language that makes sense for LGBT individuals and their families.
You may be asking such questions as, “How will the ACA impact me as an LGBT person?” “Will I get coverage if I’m not currently covered under my partner’s insurance?” “What if I have a pre-existing condition?”
The Affordable Care Act provides many new benefits to all Americans, and it is particularly pertinent to LGBT people. Here are some of the main components of the ACA, and how it relates to LGBT people and their families:
EXPANDED ACCESS TO COVERAGE
It is estimated that 46 million Americans are uninsured, and research shows that LGBT people are nearly twice as likely as their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts to lack insurance coverage. ² This insurance discrepancy is due to many factors, including employment discrimination, limited relationship recognition, and denial of coverage to individuals with pre-existing health conditions. The ACA will give millions of previously uninsured Americans access to affordable healthcare coverage through expanded Medicaid eligibility and the new health insurance exchanges:
a. Individuals with pre-existing conditions can access affordable coverage now through Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP).³ Starting in 2014, individuals cannot be denied or dropped from coverage due to pre-existing conditions. This includes many conditions that LGBT individuals experience disproportionately, including high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, HIV, cancer, and other conditions.
b. Young adults can remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
c. In 2014, Medicaid will be expanded to cover Americans at or below 133% of the federal poverty level.
In addition to prohibiting the denial and rescission of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, the ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on coverage, allowing for long-term care of chronic conditions.
Additionally, the federal healthcare reform website now includes a “same-sex partner” filter to help same-sex couples find an insurance plan that covers both individuals.
PRIORITIZING PREVENTIVE HEALTHCARE
Insurance plans under the ACA will be required to cover recommended preventive health care services, without out-of-pocket expenses. Because LGBT people are more likely to experience health problems, accessing preventive services such as pap tests, breast/chest exams, vaccinations, counseling, and other screenings is vital.
Additionally, the ACA will prioritize needed mental health and substance abuse services. LGBT people have a high prevalence of mental health issues and have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use. Furthermore, the emphasis on mental health and substance abuse services in the ACA is particularly important for our community.
The ACA will also invest millions of dollars in evidence-based prevention strategies that will be implemented across the nation. The interventions will focus on health issues pertinent to the LGBT community, including tobacco cessation, obesity prevention, HIV, nutrition, and physical activity.
FIGHTING HEALTH DISPARITIES AND IMPROVING CARE
The ACA is invested in fighting health disparities experienced by LGBT people. The law will increase funding for the development of a more diverse and culturally competent healthcare workforce. This will allow healthcare providers to have a better understanding of the health needs specific to LGBT people, as well as receive training on how to create a safe and affirming space for diverse communities.
The ACA will also invest in increasing and improving research and data collection focused on the LGBT community. This will allow policymakers and other stakeholders to better advocate for and address the health and wellness needs of LGBT people.
The Affordable Care Act is committed to serving the needs of the LGBT community. It will expand coverage to individuals and families that are currently uninsured, protect patients against coverage limits and denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, promote preventive care to combat the development of chronic conditions, invest in a culturally competent and diverse healthcare workforce, and fight health disparities experienced by LGBT people.
“The positive benefits of comprehensive health reform cannot be overstated, particularly for LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS, and their families,” said Jamal Edwards, President and CEO of Howard Brown Health Center. “These changes will not only enhance, but will create means of access for thousands of people in Illinois, and in many cases, for the first time in their lives. The changes will ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community have access to the Medicaid safety-net and the high quality, affordable care available at community health centers like Howard Brown Health Center, which stands ready to serve them with compassion, dignity and respect — today, tomorrow and beyond.”
To learn more about the benefits and components of the ACA, visit www.healthcare.gov.
- National Coalition for LGBT Health. The Affordable Care Act: Transforming LGBT Health. Retrieved from: http://lgbthealth.webolutionary.com/sites/default/files/ACA%20and%20LGBT%202-pager_0.pdf
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Retrieved from: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/choices/pre-existing-condition-insurance-plan/index.html
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Betsy was born in Chicago and raised in the northern suburbs of the city. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with her B.A. in Philosophy, and went on to pursue her M.A. in Social Work from the University of Chicago. Over the past six years, Betsy has developed and pursued her passion for women’s health, LGBTQ issues, and social justice. In January of 2012, she became the Manager of the Lesbian Community Care Project (LCCP) at Howard Brown Health Center, the largest LGBTQ healthcare organization in the Midwest. Betsy is thrilled to join The L Stop team to write for the Queering Her Health blog. She hopes the blog will: 1) help LBTQ women get access to health information that is focused specifically on queer women’s health issues, 2) provide resources for LBTQ women to get connected to healthcare that is safe and affirming, and 3) encourage queer women to take care of themselves and their health, because we’re worth it!