One of the biggest changes to the health care system is coming in just a few short weeks: the individual mandate. Millions of uninsured or underinsured will be able to go online or talk to certified application counselors to find insurance, see if they are eligible for federal help and buy coverage.
But with this new rollout—and perhaps the key to successfully signing people up—comes education about its existence and the details of coverage. What’s a mandate? Will they discriminate against me? What am 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 spent educating the groups who need this information the most, and last week at the White House, attention was shifted to another, and often overlooked, group: the LGBT community, where substantial health disparities exist and one in three low- income people are uninsured. Also, only 64 percent knew that the mandate was coming in October and 71 percent have not heard about the new coverage options, a recent report sanctioned by the White House found.
To address this issue and offer guidance on outreach efforts, the White House gathered advocacy groups, community leaders, human rights and LGBT organizations, politicians, and health care providers, including Penn’s Baligh Yehia, MD, MPP, MSHP an infectious disease specialist who is spearheading the creation of the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health.
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be particularly transformative for many members of the LGBT community, who have often struggled to 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 work with individuals who need access to care and help guide them through the process.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius led the briefing, and was joined by The Center for American Progress, the Sellers Dorsey Foundation and the Federal Agencies Project, who jointly announced the launch of Out2Enroll, a campaign to inform LGBT communities about new coverage options available through the ACA and to encourage LGBT individuals to enroll.
“You are the leaders across this country who can reach out to your friends, and your neighbors, and your colleagues in the LGBT community and make sure they know what is about to happen,” Sec. Sebelius said last week at the briefing.
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