Campaign To Enroll LGBT Community In Health Coverage Launched At White House

The White House hosted a summit on Thursday to promote Out2Enroll – a campaign that began today to connect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to health coverage.

The Obama administration and community advocates touted the effort to reach out to those communities about new online health insurance marketplaces, where people can compare insurance plans and find out if they’re eligible for government subsidies.  The marketplaces open for enrollment Oct. 1, and will sell policies that take effect beginning Jan. 1

One in three lower-income LGBT Americans is underinsured, said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She emphasized that the health law bars health insurance companies from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender.

“Starting next year it will be clear that you cannot be locked out or dumped out of an insurance policy,” Sebelius said.

Tresa Undem, a partner in polling firm PerryUndem, said about 64 percent of the LGBT community surveyed had only a vague idea of the mandate requiring most Americans to carry health insurance beginning next year, while 71 percent hadn’t heard of the marketplaces, also referred to as exchanges.

She also said that some transgendered people are worried about the enrollment process.  They’re fearful that navigators may not be equipped to address their concerns and also that health plans may not cover some of their needs, such as hormone therapy.

“The transgender people carry a huge burden of discrimination,” Undem said.

Even so, HHS staff said the department has made significant gains in ensuring that the community will have equal access to health care services and insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.  They emphasized a relatively new effort to collect comprehensive data about the LGBT community through ongoing surveys.

“We want to have this be just the beginning,” said Howard Koh, the assistant secretary for health.