Covered California Targets LGBT Consumers

By Michael Regula

Originally published on Advocate.com December 05 2013 1:25 AM ET

Covered California, the state’s independent marketplace designed to implement the Affordable Care Act, announced a partnership with 12 organizations throughout the state to enroll LGBT people in the new health care system. 

Covered California executive director Peter Lee told reporters on Tuesday that the new initiative will focus on open enrollment through March 31 with intensive radio, TV, and billboard marketing, with a continued plan continuing through fall 2014.

Chris Brown, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's director of health and mental health services, said that the center was committed to “facilitate access to comprehensive health care, reduce health disparities, and improve health outcomes of LGBT individuals across California.”

Brown said LGBT people tend to face significant health disparities and challenges with access to health care, compared to heterosexual people. For example, LGBT people experience disproportionate suicide rates among youth, and gay men are the overwhelming majority of those infected with HIV (81% of the cases among men in Los Angeles County).

“Many LGBT persons have not been able to purchase coverage in the private market because of preexisting conditions, caps on coverage, or the high cost of premiums,” Brown said. “These challenges have been magnified in gay men living with HIV, particularly young gay men of color.”

Lee also specifically addressed the changes the Affordable Care Act introduces for transgender individuals, describing the changes as bringing on “a new day for our transgender friends." Under the new provisions, Lee reiterated that being “transgender will no longer be a preexisting condition,” allowing better access to hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery to transgender individuals.

While the new law and the federal health care exchange's website have become political fodder, Lee said the Covered California website is “working fine according to its customers” approaching the critical December 23 deadline, has been trying to get the word out not only through print-outs in LGBT publications, but though the use of roadside billboards.

Eleven members of the LGBT Network, with the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center as the lead agency, were awarded a $1 Million grant for Outreach and Education Grant from Covered California in July. The Covered California’s new marketing capaign will focuss mainly on open enrollment specifically targeting LGBT residences in California’s larger cities, including San Fran, San Diego, and Los Angeles.