As a professional jazz bassist, composer, and vocalist who tours around the world, I'm used to answering tough questions. Which musicians are available who would be able to play my music and excel? What recording engineer and studio would be best suited for this new album? Will my music evoke a heartfelt response from my audience?
As I'm a self-employed transgender woman, seeking health care comes with a lot of tough questions too. Will my doctor be knowledgeable about the care I need? Will my doctor respect who I am? And will my insurance pay for it all?
When it comes to my music I can always rely on my bandmates, but when it comes to my insurance and health care, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) has my back. The ACA protects LGBTQ people from discrimination. It removed simply being transgender from the list of disqualifying preexisting conditions, meaning my insurer can't deny me coverage because of who I am. And beginning in 2017, it will prohibit plans from refusing to cover transition-related healthcare.
On a personal note, I've been enrolled with Blue Shield through the Covered California exchange for two years and have just re-upped for my third year. While my longtime doctor who prescribes hormones is not part of the Blue Shield/Covered California network, we've agreed on an affordable fixed rate for office visits. My insurance pays for the lab work.
Since I've signed on for coverage under the ACA, every doctor I've sought care from has been understanding, accepting, and respectful of who I am. I've been seeing an excellent eye doctor in Beverly Hills who treats my glaucoma, which was preexisting. I've had a cancerous skin growth removed, a broken bone in my hand, several soft tissue leg injuries, and a colonoscopy. All of the treatments and physical therapy co-payments and deductibles have been affordable, and the care has been exemplary. Treatments with my previous insurance or no insurance at all would have left me destitute.
Out2Enroll, meanwhile, is a national initiative to connect our communities -- LGBTQ people and our families, friends, and allies -- with the new health insurance coverage options available under the Affordable Care Act. Out2Enroll.org has FAQs, information on financial help, resources about discrimination, and more.
Without my ACA insurance I would lead a much less active lifestyle. I am a vital person, an avid softball player, as well as a very physical musician, and these activities contribute greatly to my health and happiness. It's wonderful to know that health care wouldn't destroy my finances if I was injured or became ill.
I highly recommend that you find out your options and solutions through Out2Enroll and enroll during this year's sign-up period. The more people who participate, the better the system works for all of us.
JENNIFER LEITHAM is a jazz musician, bassist, vocalist, composer, arranger, lyricist, and producer. Read more about her here.