HCFANY’S LGBT Task Force Launches LGBT Outreach and Enrollment Week

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From left to right, Mark Hannay, LGBT Task Force Co-Chair; Star Morris of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center; City Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson; Jay Laudato, Executive Director of Callen-Lorde; David Sandman, Senior Vice President of the NYS Health Foundation; and Lois Uttley, LGBT Task Force Co-Chair.

Uninsured LGBT New Yorkers Urged to Sign Up for Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Plans by Feb. 15 Deadline

Guest Post: Lois Uttley, Director of Raising Women’s Voices – NY and C0-Chair of HCFANY’s LGBT Task Force

HCFANY LGBT Task Force members today launched a week of activities to inform uninsured LGBT New Yorkers about their coverage options and help them apply before the Feb. 15 enroll through the NY State of Health Marketplace. An estimated 1 in 4 LGBT people who would qualify for financial aid to buy health plans are still uninsured nationwide.

New York City Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson joined Task Force members for a kickoff press conference at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Chelsea, one of several LGBT-friendly Navigator agencies participating in this week’s activities. “This week, we are getting the word out to LGBT New Yorkers in all five boroughs: Get enrolled, get covered! All New Yorkers deserve quality, affordable health insurance,” said Council Member Johnson, who facilitates the Council’s LGBT Caucus. “There is a wide variety of services available to help LGBT New Yorkers get enrolled and every effort must be made to inform the community about them. This is particularly important because there are well-documented health disparities that affect our community.”

NYS Health Foundation Vice President David Sandman noted the success of NY State of Health Marketplace so far in enrolling previously uninsured New Yorkers and the importance of the new coverage opportunities for LGBT people. “For LGBT New Yorkers, those benefits cannot come soon enough. Numerous studies have found that LGBT people are uninsured at disproportionately high rates.” The Foundation has been supporting the work of HCFANY and LGBT Navigator agencies such as Callen-Lorde.

Callen-Lorde Executive Director Jay Laudato explained his agency’s experience with providing enrollment assistance: “At Callen-Lorde, we were thrilled to be able to enroll nearly 3,000 individuals – many of whom were previously uninsured – with low and no-cost health insurance products under the Affordable Care Act..”

Other LGBT-friendly agencies participating in the week’s activities include the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, Voces Latinas in Queens, GMHC, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, the Community Service Society and Make the Road NY, which has offices in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Information and enrollment events are scheduled in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County. All of these organizations belong to HCFANY’s LGBT Task Force, which has organized the week’s activities, said Task Force Co-Chair Mark Hannay.

“We want uninsured LGBT New Yorkers to know that you can apply for coverage without fear of discrimination or being turned down because of pre-existing conditions,” said LGBT Task Force Co-Chair Lois Uttley. She noted that same-sex married couples and any children they may have are eligible for family coverage. Under a new state policy, private health plans being offered in the NY State of Health Marketplace now must cover medically-necessary gender transition services. The state has also proposed lifting some of the existing restrictions on Medicaid coverage for medically-necessary transgender care.

LGBT Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment Week is being organized by the LGBT Task Force of Health Care for All New York (HCFANY, www.hcfany.org), as part of a national week of activities, endorsed by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, to reach uninsured LGBT Americans with information about new health insurance coverage options created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Organizations involved in planning and coordinating this week of events in New York include the Beth Israel Medical Center/Mount Sinai Health System, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Community Service Society of New York, LGBT Community Center, Make the Road New York, Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign, Raising Women’s Voices-New York and Voces Latinas.

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New Yorkers have five more days to enroll in January 1 coverage! On Friday, the NY State of Health extended the Dec 15 enrollment deadline to December 20 for coverage that begins January 1.

Remember that this deadline only applies to coverage that begins January 1. New Yorkers can still enroll in NY State of Health coverage beginning in February or March up until February 15, 2015 – by January 15 for coverage starting February 1, and by February 15 for coverage starting March 1. New Yorkers can enroll online, by phone, and get in-person help to enroll from an enrollment assistor.

It’s looking like another good year for affordable, quality health insurance thanks to the ACA. Nearly 155,000 New Yorkers have newly enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace since the start of open enrollment on November 15 . That’s in addition to the many who are renewing last year’s coverage. You can find stories from New Yorkers who enrolled last year in our recently released story booklet: The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories.

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Last week, the NY Times’ The Upshot featured an interactive look at new coverage data from Enroll America and data firm Civic Analytics. According to the data, roughly 10 million people gained coverage this year as a result of the Affordable Care Act. What’s exciting about the data is that it provides a much closer look at who the newly insured might be and where they may live.

The article is accompanied by a colorful map of county-level data showing estimated coverage gains between 2013 and 2014. It’s exciting to see that coverage rates increased by over 10% in some parts of the country, including rural areas of Arkansas, Nevada and Oregon. New York’s coverage gains aren’t quite as dramatic, hovering around 5% in most areas, likely because our coverage rates are already relatively high by national standards. (In 2013, New York ranked 12th in the nation for its insured population).

But with a State as large as New York, even a less dramatic percentage change equals a very high number of people.  Remember that over 1.5 million people enrolled in health insurance through the NY State of Health in its first year, and roughly 1.3 million of these people were uninsured when they applied. This new data also helps us understand which parts of New York may have seen the biggest coverage gains. For example, Greene County appears to have had the biggest decrease in its uninsured rate, dropping by 6% from 14% in 2013 to 8% in 2014.

As for the country as a whole, the trends are somewhat surprising and certainly encouraging. According to this data, some traditionally underserved communities may have been helped the most by the Affordable Care Act, including racial and ethnic minorities (Hispanics and black Americans), low-income people, and people living in rural areas.  Hispanic uninsurance rates, for example, dropped nearly 10% from 26.2% in 2013 to 16.5% in 2014.

Keep in mind that the data are from a statistical model based on a large-scale Enroll America survey, so they are estimated rather than actual numbers. Still, these estimates provide ample food for thought as we await Census data for 2014.

Visit the NY Times article here. Can’t get enough of the data? The Upshot is hosting a Facebook Q&A later TODAY, Monday, November 3 at 2pm on its Facebook page.

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The remaining uninsured have lingering concerns about health insurance affordability, and many are  unaware of their state’s Marketplace and upcoming opportunities to enroll. That’s according to a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored study about barriers and motivations of the uninsured to enrolling in health insurance during the ACA’s second enrollment period.  The study, conducted by PerryUndem Research/Communication and GMMB, involved a national survey of 1,259 uninsured consumers and 10 focus groups in six cities: Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, and Teaneck, NJ.

Key findings highlight the need for more outreach to the uninsured during the upcoming open enrollment period, which starts on November 15. For example, more than half of the uninsured did not look into enrolling during the last open enrollment period. And, one in four was unaware of the federal or their state’s marketplace. Additionally, 58% of the uninsured have financial debt, and affordability of health insurance continues to be a top concern.

The good news is, nearly three in four want health coverage: 72% agreed with the statement: “Having health insurance would make my life better.” In light of these findings, the researchers recommend the following when it comes to messaging to the uninsured:

Speak to barriers. Emphasize that low-cost plans and financial help are available and people can get in-person help to apply.

Encourage people to check out their options. Many of the uninsured did not look at the Marketplace last year. Those who did could still find different options this year.

Talk about the fine. Give the facts about the fine and how it will increase in 2015 and 2016. This gives an extra “push” to those already thinking about enrolling.

Use peer networks to get out the word. People want to know that it’s possible to get good coverage and financial help to afford it and it helps to hear this from someone they trust.

These messaging strategies can help those doing outreach to the remaining uninsured in New York State. New York enrolled over 1.5 million people in the first year of the NY State of Health Marketplace, but we still have work to do to ensure all New Yorkers are covered. Getting the word out – and using the right messages to do so – will be key to making sure the second open enrollment period is a success.

View the full RWJF report here.