The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) LGBTQ+ theme week, November 28 - December 4 encompasses World AIDS Day
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — today is encouraging LGBTQ+ people to sign up for health insurance as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Services (CMS) kicks off its LGBTQ+ Theme Week (Nov. 28 - Dec. 4) during the Open Enrollment period for individual health care plans. The week is dedicated to raising awareness within the LGBTQ+ community of the Open Enrollment period, which is ongoing through Jan. 15, 2022, and to encourage community members who lack coverage to enroll in a health insurance plan for the next year.
Because LGBTQ+ individuals are less likely to have health care coverage than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, the Center’s targeted outreach week provides a timely and essential reminder for members in the community to sign up for health insurance. Access to affordable health insurance not only grants better access to care but can also aid in addressing the health disparities that currently exist in the LGBTQ+ community and make critical preventative care more accessible.
“A disproportionate share of LGBTQ+ people in the United States lack health coverage — this LGBTQ+ theme week from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service is a reminder to the community that it’s time to enroll in a plan, which for most people will come at a cost of less than $10 a month,” said JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “This outreach to the LGBTQ+ community will help ensure greater access to health insurance for individuals who already endure disparate negative health outcomes linked to higher rates of being uninsured, and facing stigma and discrimination — which adversely affect their physical, psychological, and financial well-being, just because of who they are or who they love. We thank the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for highlighting the LGBTQ+ community and strongly urge individuals to enroll.”
According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, about 15% of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. are uninsured, compared to 12% of non-LGBTQ+ people. The LGBTQ+ population is also more likely to be unemployed (9% vs. 5%) or to have an annual salary below $24,000 (25% vs. 18%), both factors that can make it difficult to obtain health insurance. Earlier this year, HRC called attention to a report from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed LGBTQ+ people were more susceptible to the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that 37% of LGBTQ adult smokers smoke every day compared to 27% of non-LGBTQ people; 21% of LGBTQ adults have had asthma, compared to 14% of non-LGBTQ people; and one in five LGBTQ adults aged 50 and above have diabetes.
LGBTQ+ people are protected from discrimination while receiving health care and finding health insurance coverage thanks to section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Additionally, for transgender individuals, who historically have not had access to health insurance options because of discriminatory exclusions, more plans than ever before affirmatively cover transgender-inclusive benefits.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) legislation passed this year by Congress has provisions that significantly reduce costs for those taking advantage of open enrollment:
More information about signing up for health insurance is available at HealthCare.gov.
The LGBTQ+ Theme Week also encompasses World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, an annual observance that looks at the ongoing impacts of HIV and AIDS. HIV continues to be a major public health crisis in the United States and around the world. According to HIV.gov, there are more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV, and approximately 35,000 new diagnoses each year. The virus disproportionately affects Black and Brown populations – while HIV.gov estimates that there were 12.6 infections per 100,000 people in 2019, for Black people that number rose to 42.1, for Latinx people it was 21.7, and for people of multiple races, it was 18.4.
Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced its two-year, grant-based partnership with Gilead Sciences to help address the disproportionate impact of HIV on Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ communities, particularly Black and Latinx LBGTQ+ youth. The $3.2 million grant funds HRC Foundation’s programs, efforts and partnerships designed to combat the HIV epidemic, particularly the My Body, My Health initiative. That initiative works to build partnerships with minority-led, community-based organizations that directly provide HIV services to Black and Latinx communities such as HIV testing, treatment options and prevention.
HRC partnered last year with the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC) on the release of a guide about the Undetectable = Untransmittable campaign, which calls attention to the fact that a person with HIV
who is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus through sex – even without condoms. Lifesaving and life-enhancing treatments such as PrEP are key to bringing an end to the decades-long epidemic, and getting more LGBTQ+ people signed up for health care benefits is an important way to help ensure that these treatments reach those who need them most.
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