Health & Wellness / Life

ACA for the LGBTQ

 

IMG_1618By now, you’ve signed up for your new shiny health insurance plan and you’re feeling pretty good about things, right? The Affordable Care Act was designed to increase access to health care for more Americans, and that includes the chronically underserved LGBTQ community. The first impact for LGBTQ families will be an increase in the number of health exchanges that accept domestic partners, civilly united persons, and other family types that may not have been included (or may have been heavily taxed) before. Provisions built into the ACA prohibit health care discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Access to screenings and treatment for cancer and mental illness, both more prevalent in LGBTQ populations, is improved. Care cannot be denied for those with pre-existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS. The astronomical health care bills associated with this and other chronic illnesses are eliminated.

All of this sounds great, so what’s the problem? Well, first of all, many people have not yet signed up for the health exchanges. Turns out, those who are least likely to access health care are also less likely to be able to afford even the Affordable Care Act. Go figure. Also, who will competently serve all of the additional LGBTQ folks making their way onto the healthcare scene for the first time? Not the medical students who get an average of five hours of training related to LGBTQ issues. Not the nursing students who receive even less than that. How will queer patients connect with health care providers in the marketplace who are knowledgeable about “our needs”? For those of us who are LGBTQ people of color, the disparities are increased even further. Signing up for insurance is only the first step towards improving the health of our communities.

There are some advances on the trans front in health care. The Department of Health and Human Services has indicated that they will be moving gender-affirming surgeries to the list of Medicare-covered procedures. Gender-affirming (or gender reassignment, in the HHS parlance) surgery has been listed as “experimental” since 1981. A new book (Trans Bodies, Trans Selves) provides a wide-ranging overview of trans health updates and is designed as a guide for the trans person and their loved ones.

Are you a health care provider and want to learn more? Fascinated by what the ACA might mean for you? There’s a great webinar coming up on May 20 that you might want to join. This is the description: “The primary objectives of this webinar are to introduce lessons learned and best practices for outreach and service delivery for LGBT clients in the post-Affordable Care Act era, particularly those at-risk for or living with HIV and/or viral hepatitis in clinical care settings including health centers as well as to answer the question, ‘How can places like Community Health Centers become providers of choice for new LGBT enrollees and keep them in care?’”

At the time of publication the ACA has enrolled approximately 8.14 million Americans in health insurance. It is a first step on the way to decreasing health disparities and improving the physical and mental health of millions of LGBTQ Americans. There are many questions that remain for us moving forward, but I am eager to discover the impact of this revolutionary legislation for our “hidden” group of health disparate people in the queer community.

FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH

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One Comment

  1. Personally I think that there should be an ascsranue that all schools even, private ones. Should have information and support for LGBTQ youth at my school there is no such info and as of yet I have seen no evidence that the pastoral care is equipped for dealing with such issues, even though I myself have had no issues with bullying. I still think this needs to be addressed. Also I fear that the recent rise in AIDs among gay youth could be due to the lack of sex ed for gay students. I know that it seems logical, to use protection, but the age at which sex ed is taught, is not always the age at which boys are at they’re most logical.

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