Post submitted by Christopher Labonte, Executive Director of the Sellers Dorsey Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving LGBT health. He is also a member of the HRC Board of Directors.

Let’s face it. We’re all overwhelmed by the discussion, debate, and rancor over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in recent days. Even for those of us who follow the ACA on a daily basis, it’s difficult to cut through all the noise, wade through the partisan debate, and separate fact from fiction. So let me break it down for you. It’s about people, there are real benefits for the LGBT community, and here’s why.

It’s about my friends Sharon and Linda, both cancer survivors. If they lose their jobs and their employer-sponsored health insurance, the ACA will enable them to obtain health insurance even though they had cancer. And, because of the ACA, an insurance company can no longer place an annual or lifetime limit on the amount of coverage they can receive.

It’s about Peter. He recently left his job to work at a small non-profit that did not offer health insurance. As a transgender man, he was told he didn’t qualify for insurance from a large insurer in his state because he was transgender. Now he’ll be able to sign up for an affordable plan online.

It’s about my friend Jonathan, a freelance writer. He’ll now be able to afford health insurance, because the federal government will help pay some of the cost when he buys coverage online.

Maybe it’s also about you? Or someone you know and love? There’s a good chance, considering the LGBT community is less likely to have health insurance than the non-LGBT community.

In order to help clear up the confusion and give the LGBT community the tools it needs to understand the ACA, Out2Enroll was created. Out2Enroll is a collaborative project of the Sellers Dorsey Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Federal Agencies Project. We are also working with HRC and other national, state, and local organizations to help get the word out.

Our sole purpose is to reach out to the LGBT community about the ACA and direct it to enrollment resources. While our full website will be up on National Coming Out Day on October 11, here are three quick facts you should be aware of, as open enrollment starts today.

  1. State marketplaces, health plans, and their employees are prohibited from discriminating against the LGBT community. And insurers can’t charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition, such as HIV or cancer. Finally, if you are transgender, you can expect that your plan will cover services if they are covered for everyone else in the plan.

  2. There is no need to rush.  While open enrollment starts October 1, you have until March 31 of next year to enroll. This extended window will provide you with enough time to weigh your options. For example, it will give you time to find out if your health care provider is in the plan you like and if the prescriptions you need are covered—critical information to have before enrolling. (HIV/AIDS-related information about enrollment is available here.) However, if you need coverage to begin on January 1, you must be enrolled in a plan by December 15.
  3. Regardless of where you live, you are able to sign up online, over the phone, or in person for a plan that fits your budget. There are people who can help you navigate the system and provide you with assistance, and there are websites where you can browse plans in your state marketplace. When it’s officially released on National Coming Out Day, our website will list navigators and other resources near you, such as local LGBT community centers, community health centers, and AIDS service providers. You can also call 1-800-318-2956, where help is available in more than 100 languages.

I encourage you to learn more by visiting our website, liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.  Even if you have insurance, talk with your friends who don’t, and make sure they get the information they need.
Be out. Be healthy. Get covered.

Filed under: Health & Aging

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