Guest blog by Caroline Davidson, LGBT Outreach Intern for Raising Women’s Voices-NY. LGBT health coverage and care have improved in recent years, but a surprising number of individuals still are unaware or unsure of how to apply for coverage. Once insured, LGBT people can have trouble finding LGBT-competent providers, and can encounter other roadblocks and frustrating delays using their health plans to get the care they need.
To address this need, Raising Women’s Voices-NY (as co-chair of the HCFANY LGBT Task Force) has developed an LGBT outreach team called REACHLGBT. It’s dedicated to meeting LGBT individuals where they’re at – to listen to their needs, get them referrals and hear their stories to understand needed policy changes. The outreach team has been attending LGBT- and youth-focused events, including Queens Pride and Brooklyn Pride. You can find Team Member Jacob Barela at Harlem Pride this Saturday, June 25, from noon to 6 p.m. The event is taking place in Jackie Robinson Park (entrance is at 148th and Bradhurst Avenue). The team will also be at the ROAR youth event next Wednesday, June 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Manhattan’s LGBT Center, 208 West 13th Street.
Here are some of the key messages the REACHLGBT outreach team members are sharing:
- Health plans may NOT…
–discriminate against LGBT people
–refuse to cover medically-necessary gender transition services
–deny coverage to anyone based on a pre-existing condition (like HIV/AIDS)
- ALL health plans must cover emergency care, doctor visits, prescription drugs and preventive care.
- You can get free application help from an LGBT-friendly enrollment assistor.
- You can apply year-round for FREE or LOW-COST health coverage through Medicaid, the new Essential Plan, or Child Health Plus.
Team members have been making a special effort to connect with LGBT adolescents and young adults about the care they need. Outreach workers like Caroline Davidson, in the photo at right, have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work on the ground with LGBT folks. “While wanting health insurance or care might not be someone’s idea of a ‘glamorous’ pride, it is a highly necessary part of being LGBT,” Caroline says. She notes that 60 percent of the LGBT New Yorkers reached so far through these outreach events have been young people ages 16 to 24.
Many of the individuals who approach the REACHLGBT table are looking to get enrolled in health insurance because they are new to New York City or had a recent life event resulting in the need for coverage. The team provides referrals to LGBT-competent navigator agencies, including organizations that belong to the HCFANY LGBT Task Force. For those young people who already have insurance, many of the questions posed to the outreach team concern how to find LGBT-competent health providers, where to obtain care for gender transition services, and how to understand the rights of transgender or gender nonconforming people in society. As outreach workers point out, tabling is a great chance to not only give individuals information, but also to hear their information and perspectives.
Often people who approach the REACHLGBT table offer health services themselves or work for organizations that do, and are therefore looking to make connections. This has enabled the REACHLGBT team to build into an ever-growing referral database of individuals and organizations to which LGBT people can be referred for help. You can contact the REACHLGBT team at 212.870.2010 or info@RaisingWomensVoices.net