All across the country, and right here in Colorado, people struggle to gain access to the affordable, quality health care they deserve. While LGBT Coloradans face many of the same health care challenges as heterosexual and non-transgender Coloradans, they also encounter unique obstacles to fulfilling their specific health needs. Yet, we know little about how one’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression might impact a person’s ability to interact with the health care system and receive equitable care.
One Colorado Releases New Videos on LGBT Health Barriers
In June 2013, we released two videos as part of our work to change our health care system so it better serves our community. The first — “Barriers to Transgender Health” — features three transgender Coloradans and their stories about navigating a system that fails to recognize their needs. The second video — “Invisible: The State of LGBT Health” — underscores the everyday fears and hurdles that LGBT Coloradans face in getting the care they need, just because of who we are.
2013 saw many positive changes in health care for LGBT Coloradans. From continued work on implementing the Affordable Care Act to the expansion of Medicaid in Colorado, our families will benefit greatly from the progress we’ve made this year.
In April 2013, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) released a bulletin which states that health insurance plans cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, including transgender status. For more information about what this means, refer to this FAQ page and watch this video below, featuring former One Colorado Executive Director Brad Clark and Dede de Percin from Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.
The One Colorado Education Fund LGBT Health Study
In 2011, One Colorado Education Fund implemented a multi-method study of the health needs and beliefs of LGBT Coloradans. This LGBT health study was composed of a series of community health dialogues across Colorado, supplemented by an online survey. In total, nearly 1,300 LGBT Coloradans shared their personal health care stories and experiences. The key findings of this study are detailed in a comprehensive report, Invisible: The State of LGBT Health in Colorado.
The study found that LGBT health needs overlapped with the universal themes of affordability, access, and quality. Similar to their heterosexual and non-transgender counterparts, LGBT Coloradans worry about paying for their health care needs and struggle to finance their care. But unlike other Coloradans, LGBT individuals report challenges to accessing LGBT-friendly care from providers, and some members of the LGBT community decide to hide their identity to ensure they will be treated with respect by health care professionals.
Moving Forward: What Health Care Reform Means for LGBT Coloradans Today
In collaboration with partner organizations and policy experts, One Colorado is committed to advancing policy, funding, and access to safe, inclusive health care for LGBT Coloradans. Armed with the results of our health study, we can effectively advocate on behalf of LGBT Coloradans — and particularly transgender people, who experience injustice at every turn.
One Colorado has been advocating for LGBT Coloradans as the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is being implemented in our state. New health care options will help hundreds of thousands of Coloradans get the health care they need.
One Colorado is proud to help educate our community about the benefits of the law, as well as work with Colorado’s new health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. Only there can LGBT families purchase coverage and receive financial assistance if they qualify (individuals with incomes under $45,960 and families of four under $94,200). These new plans provide comprehensive coverage, which include check-ups, preventive care, prescriptions, maternity care, and mental health care. To get coverage by January 2014, individuals must enroll by December 15th, 2014. And all Coloradans must have coverage by March 31, 2014 or face a tax penalty. For more information, click here.
For lower-income individuals and families (individuals with incomes under $15,282 and families of four under $31,322), Colorado is expanding the Medicaid program. To determine if you qualify, click here.
NOTE: Same-sex spouses legally married in another state are treated the same as other spouses by the health exchanges, including Connect for Health Colorado, due to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. This does not apply to couples in a civil union. See this guidance from the IRS for more information. Note that this also does not apply for Medicaid, and the state of Colorado has not yet issued guidance on how the program will treat same-sex spouses.
If you need coverage and want to talk about your options to an LGBT organization in your area, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-951-5218.
Here are some additional resources on what the Affordable Care Act means for LGBT Coloradans:
- Out2Enroll has information specifically for the LGBT community about the Affordable Care Act.
- The Top Ten Things Health Reform Does for Gay and Transgender Americans
- The Affordable Care Act and LGBT Americans (from Healthcare.gov)
- The Affordable Care Act and HIV/AIDS (from AIDS.gov)
- Connect for Health Colorado
- Colorado’s Medicaid Program