High rates of un-insurance among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have finally started to drop because of the affordable, nondiscriminatory health coverage options made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The LGBT uninsured rate fell from 24.2 percent to under 18 percent in the first year of operation of ACA health marketplaces, according to national Gallup surveys. But that was still significantly higher than the 13.2 percent un-insurance rate for the U.S. population as a whole.
That’s why Health Care for All New York is reaching out to uninsured LGBT New Yorkers as they participate in Pride celebrations in June and July. Raising Women’s Voices-NY, a HCFANY Steering Committee member, will be at every Pride Month celebration in the New York City area, handing out LGBT-specific information, and collecting contact information for uninsured people and connecting them to navigators who specialize in working with LGBT consumers for enrollment assistance.
Big selling points this year are the recent New York State policy announcements requiring health insurers to cover all medically-necessary transgender care. HCFANY’s LGBT Task Force is delighted to see that the New York Department of Financial Services responded to our concerns by issuing a guidance letter covering private health plans. HCFANY is also educating LGBT New Yorkers about the March 2015 partial lifting of transgender exclusions in state Medicaid coverage.
We’re letting LGBT New Yorkers know that if they are getting married, having a baby or experiencing one of a list of “qualifying life events,” they are eligible for a special enrollment period to apply for coverage through the NY State of Health marketplace. Low-income LGBT people can apply for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for themselves and their families year-round. The third open enrollment period for ACA health coverage starts on November 15.
RWV-NY Community Organizer Liza Lederer and summer intern Christianna Silva were at the Brooklyn Pride festivities on June 13, handing out materials and talking with uninsured LGBT people about how to get covered. More than 10,000 people attended Brooklyn Pride, which occupied six blocks in Park Slope Community. Many of the vendors at the festival were self-employed people interested in getting health insurance for the first time, reported Lederer. The following day, June 14, RWV-NY participated in Rockland Pride, which was held in the village of Nyack, and was attended by more than 2,000 people from the Rockland LGBT community.
Coming up on Saturday, June 27, will be Harlem Pride, where RWV-NY staff will do outreach to uninsured LGBT people in the neighborhood. Then, on Sunday, June 28, is the big Pride Festival in Manhattan, which draws more than 200,000 people from around the country. RWV-NY staff and volunteers will be leafleting and collecting names of uninsured people along the parade route and in the exhibit and vendor area that stretches over five blocks in the West Village. Pride activities in the New York City area will conclude on July 17, when RWV-NY will have a table at Bronx Pride, which will be held from noon to 8 p.m. in Crotona Park.
“The Affordable Care Act gave me a chance and ended my six year nightmare of living without health insurance. It was way more simple and affordable than people think.”
-Karen E., Ulster County
The Affordable Care Act is working in New York, according to HCFANY’s new publication, The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories.
The new publication shares stories from New Yorkers like Karen, a single mother from Ulster County, who was finally able to get affordable health coverage for her family after being uninsured for six years, thanks to federal subsidies. Ben, from Broome county got covered thanks to the ACA’s Medicaid Expansion and enrolled in the same plan as his son. And Engracia got help from a local Navigator to enroll in a plan that saves her $4,500 a year.
The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories features twelve consumer stories and quotes from New Yorkers in all regions of the State who enrolled in private Qualified Health Plans, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and small business plans, all through the NY State of Health Marketplace during the first Open Enrollment period. Many got help to enroll from Navigators, who offer free, unbiased, in-person enrollment help. The stories are paired with key statistics and facts about how the ACA is working for New York – and most importantly, New Yorkers.
View HCFANY’s full press release here.
Outreach Worker Engracia Jamieson and Volunteer Jan Kenyon at Great Day in Harlem (above) and RWV-NY Community Organizer Liza Lederer (right) at Brooklyn Pride
This coming Labor Day Weekend marks the unofficial end of summer, and it’s been a busy one for health coverage advocates and volunteers! Here’s an update from the field from the Get Covered NY Campaign, a grassroots effort to raise awareness about the new insurance options available through NY State of Health, and help NYC residents get covered. Get Covered NY is a project of Health Care For All New York, Greater NYC for Change, and Raising Women’s Voices – NY.
Guest Post by Aliza Lederer-Plaskett, Community Organizer for Raising Women’s Voices-NY
Raising Women’s Voices and our partners in the Get Covered NY initiative are wrapping up a busy summer of outreach to uninsured New Yorkers. We have tabled and leafleted at a wide variety of events in low-income communities in Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, as well as Westchester and Rockland counties.
We’ve been to the Hunts Point Summer Fish Festival in the Bronx. We’ve reached out to LGBT people by tabling at Pride Festivals in Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Rockland County and lower Manhattan. We’ve been to book fairs, Harlem Week and back-to-school events where we can reach families with children who may be eligible for Child Health Plus. In Westchester and Rockland Counties, we have done outreach at cultural festivals and presentations on the Affordable Care Act and NY State of Health for members and staff of local nonprofit organizations.
Our dedicated and trained Get Covered New York volunteers have been taking clipboards and handouts around the events, interacting with attendees and taking down the names of people who would like to be contacted by a Navigator to begin the application process. Through this hands-on approach, we have collected more than 900 names of uninsured and underinsured individuals throughout July and August.
As we speak with uninsured people in the field and collect their information, we have noted who has experienced a major life change – which may qualify them for a special open enrollment period. We also flag people who we think might qualify for Medicaid, for which there is year-round enrollment. We then forward their contact information directly to a Navigator at the Community Service Society. Other uninsured individuals are entered into the Get Covered NY database, to be called by volunteers at phone banks that will start up again as the November 15 start of the next open enrollment period draws closer.
We have begun to pack our September and October schedule chock full of community events to ensure that we can reach as many people as possible prior to the start of the new enrollment period. Got an event you’d like to see us at? Interested in becoming a volunteer? Please contact Liza Lederer at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you set up to help get New York covered!
The Supreme Court’s decision this week in the Hobby Lobby case is a blow to the hard-fought campaign to ensure that women have affordable health insurance coverage for contraception. The court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that family-run corporations like the crafts chain store Hobby Lobby can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the owners say contraception violates their religious beliefs.
Women’s health advocates are concerned that the decision could begin to undermine valuable gains for women’s health and economic well-being that we’ve started to see as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s Women’s Preventive Services provisions. Last year, the share of women with no out-of-pocket costs for the types of contraception covered by the law increased to 56 percent from 14 percent only one year earlier. The contraceptive coverage mandate saved women an estimated $483 million in out-of-pocket spending last year, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
Prior to the Hobby Lobby decision, the Obama administration already had exempted purely-religious organizations, such as churches and seminaries, from complying with the contraceptive mandate. In addition, the administration had fashioned an accommodation for religiously-affiliated non-profits, such as Catholic hospitals and nursing homes, that allows them to shift the burden of providing contraceptive coverage to their insurance companies or third-party health plan administrators.
The court’s ruling carves out an exception to the contraceptive coverage mandate for another type of employer (so-called “closely-held corporations” in which more than half the stock is held by five or fewer people), when the owners of the company (such as the conservative Christians who own Hobby Lobby) have religious objections to contraception. By some estimates, as many as 90 percent of all corporations are closely-held entities, and they employ about half of American workers. Hobby Lobby runs more than 600 stores across the country, with 13,000 employees.
Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the majority opinion by five male judges in the Hobby Lobby case, suggested that the employees of corporations like Hobby Lobby could still get contraceptive coverage if the government granted those companies the kind of accommodation already in place for religiously-affiliated employers, or if the government simply paid for their contraception. However, the accommodation is being challenged in separate lawsuits by religious entities. Moreover, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who authored the dissent that was joined by the other two female justices, wondered: “Where is the stopping point to the “let the government pay” alternative? Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines or paying the minimum wage […] or according women equal pay for substantially similar work […]?”
The Hobby Lobby decision was the first time that corporations were granted legal protections under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act for the religious beliefs of their owners, a step that was very troubling to Ginsburg and the dissenters. “The exemption for these employers from the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage would deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage that the ACA would otherwise secure,” Ginsburg wrote.
Fortunately for women in New York State, the decision and the federal RFRA does not apply to state contraceptive coverage laws, such as the Women’s Health and Wellness Act in New York. The Women’s Health and Wellness Act requires employers to cover contraception, as well as other important women’s health services. This state law was upheld by the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which rejected a challenge by religious groups in our state.