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What Obamacare means to you

WASHINGTON – “One in three lower-income LGBT adults don’t have insurance.”

“Being LGBT is not a pre-existing condition.”

In two simple sentences, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius succinctly explains why the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, will benefit LGBT Americans.

With Obamacare enrollment starting on Oct. 1, the White House brought together healthcare experts and rainbow community leaders on Thursday to explain how new coverage options will affect LGBT Americans.

The Obama Administration rolled out two of its big guns – Sebelius and Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor to the President of the United States and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs – to brief participants attending the summit at the White House. The event was shown live via the Internet and lasted more than two hours.

Sebelius said the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would be a blessing for the LGBT community, where many do not have health insurance. She and other panelists also noted the lack of healthcare coverage for transgender Americans, who stand to gain access to medicine and transition treatments that were often denied by insurers.

The HHS Secretary stressed that “being LGBT is not a pre-existing condition,” meaning that insurance companies can no longer deny healthcare coverage for Americans who are transitioning or have HIV, AIDS, cancer or other conditions that were previously excluded.

The HHS Secretary said LGBT Americans cannot be overcharged by insurers, locked out or dropped out of plans for being gay, and they cannot be discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identification.

The summit speakers noted that many Americans, including the LGBT community, remain largely unaware of the positive impact that Obamacare will have on their lives, and urged participants to be “Obamacare missionaries” in their communities.

Goals of Obamacare are: equal access, consumer engagement, data collection and Medicaid expansion.

Speakers worried about Americans living in states, mostly in the South, which are refusing to participate in Obamacare. They noted that LGBT couples in the South have a higher ratio of having families than LGBT couples elsewhere, and that they and their children will suffer as a result.

Sebelius emphasized that Obamacare removes lifetime limits on healthcare coverage, important for Americans with chronic or terminal illnesses. Obamacare also promotes wellness by requiring insurers to provide preventive care at no additional cost, she said.

The Center for American Progress and The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law created an infographic showing how new healthcare options affect the LGBT community. The graphic is shown above on the right. Here is the graphic's introduction by Kellan Baker, Andrew Cray and Gary J. Gates:

According to the most recent estimates, there are at least 9 million LGBT people living in all corners of the United States, including more than 646,000 same-sex couples. Though LGBT communities are diverse in terms of factors such as race, income, and geography, LGBT people from all backgrounds continue to face common experiences of discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in fundamental areas of everyday life such as education, family recognition, employment, and health care contributes to poverty for many LGBT people and their families, as well as gaps in access to health insurance coverage and health care.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act presents an unprecedented opportunity to address these concerns by helping LGBT people and their families get the coverage and care they need. Under the Affordable Care Act, LGBT people who were not previously able to afford health insurance will be able to apply for Medicaid or shop in a Health Insurance Marketplace for quality health insurance coverage that fits their budget.

As this infographic shows, a significant number of LGBT people will be eligible to gain coverage through the Marketplaces or Medicaid, but opportunities for new coverage options are not evenly distributed across the country. In order to ensure that the benefits of health reform reach LGBT people no matter where they live, every state should expand its Medicaid program, and federal and state policymakers building the Health Insurance Marketplaces in every state should ensure that Marketplace policies and programs appropriately reach and serve LGBT communities.

Open enrollment begins on Tuesday, Oct. 1 for coverage that will begin on Jan. 1, 2014. To find out more, check out Out2Enroll, a collaborative effort from the Sellers Dorsey Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Federal Agencies Project to educate the LGBT community about their options under the Affordable Care Act.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.