With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ) ending Feb. 15, Get Covered Illinois ( GCI ) hosted an LGBT stakeholders discussion at the Center on Halsted Jan. 7. About 30 LGBT community leaders, GCI officials and healthcare navigators attended.
GCI ( the official health insurance marketplace for Illinois residents ) also launched an ad featuring Illinois residents and newlyweds Jake Carr and Allen Ratliff. ( Of note: On television, the ad ran throughout the weekend, and is in rotation to run statewide this week. ) Carr and Allen are also featured in print ads focusing on the top five ACA benefits for the LGBT community.
The five benefits are plans purchased through the marketplace can't discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity; people can't be charged a higher premium due to one's sexual orientation; no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions like HIV/AIDS, cancer or mental health diagnosis; legally married same-sex couples are treated equally for financial assistance when purchasing coverage; and no more lifetime limits on coverage for people with chronic diseases.
Among the discussion leaders were Kellan Baker ( Out2Enroll steering committee member and senior fellow with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for America Progress ), Jose Munoz ( GCI chief marketing officer ), Brian Gorman ( GCI's director of outreach and consumer education ), Charles Watkins ( GCI regional outreach coordinator ), and Tracy Baim ( publisher of Windy City Times ).
Out2Enroll is, according to its website, "a national initiative to connect our communityLGBT people and their families, friends, and allieswith new health insurance options under the ACA."
Munoz noted that last year GCI exceeded their goal in numbers of enrolled people and this year they are on track to again be over target.
"There are some very key demographic groups that still need to be reached ... LGBT people, Latinos, African-Americans and millennials," said Munoz.
Baker shared that among the uninsured, LGBT people are still at a higher percentage than their heterosexual counterparts17.6 percent ( LGBT ) vs. 13.2 percent ( heterosexual ) in Q2 of 2014. Illinois is way ahead of the nation in outreach to LGBT people about the ACA, said Baker.
Munoz spoke about the genesis of the ad campaign featuring Carr and Allen ( both of whom were present at the event ) and previewed the ad that was shown during the Golden Globes.
Gorman explained that the real outreach work happens at the community level and people on the ground are the key to getting uninsured people covered.
Concerning people with HIV/AIDS, Watkins said the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is one of the navigator groups and they can help with AIDS Drug Assistance Program wraparound benefits and Ryan White Act provisions as they pertain to the ACA.
Regarding other avenues for outreach, Baim suggested that the LGBT sports leagues, PFLAG and the Coalition of Welcoming Churches ( among other religious groups ) would be good places to get the word out about the ACA.
Baker noted that LGBT people should speak out if they don't get the coverage they were promised under the ACA. There are concerns about consistent gender identity-related coverage, and GCI representatives said these are being worked on.
GCI will be hosting an open enrollment event Thursday, Jan. 15, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. For more information, visit www.getcoveredillinois.gov or call 866-311-1119. For LGBT specific questions visit www.out2enroll.org/find-local-help .