A national organization is looking at Ohio’s LGBT community as a potential target for a nationwide campaign that will raise awareness about the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) enacted changes and benefits.
Kellan Baker, founder of Out 2 Enroll and associate director of LGBT Health Policy at the Center for American Progress, explains the campaign is crucial for Ohio and other parts of the country because gay, lesbian, bisexual and particularly transgendered groups are often uninsured at greater levels than the rest of the population — both because of poorly targeted outreach efforts and outright discrimination.
“We’re hoping to provide the tools that these systems need to see where LGBT people are and include them in these efforts so LGBT community members can get the benefits that they need,” Baker says.
To accomplish that, Baker’s team is using data collected through focus groups and other research to establish messages that will resonate with LGBT communities and land in hotspots in which the groups are active.
Some of the messaging is as simple as putting pictures of gay couples on brochures. Other times, it will involve reaching deep into specific LGBT circles and social media — perhaps even Grindr, the popular phone application that gay men use to arrange dates and other sexual activities.
In its messaging, Out 2 Enroll will tout the potential benefits of Obamacare: tax subsidies, online marketplaces that will allow participants to compare insurance plans and new regulations that protect LGBT groups from discrimination in the health care and insurance industries.
Baker says the efforts could be particularly critical for transgendered individuals. According to focus groups conducted by PerryUndem Research & Communication, the transgendered population has generally felt misunderstood and discriminated against when trying to obtain health insurance. Complaints about intrusive, inappropriate questions and being misgendered were fairly common.
In some cases, the discrimination wasn’t subtle. Until new regulations were enacted through Obamacare, insurance companies were able to withhold some medical services and refuse coverage altogether by treating gender identity issues as a pre-existing condition.
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals have faced their own discrimination as well: The focus groups found one in three respondents in a same-sex relationship tried to get partner coverage through an employer plan; of those, 50 percent had trouble getting partner coverage and 72 percent felt discriminated against during the process.
Baker explains that helping with many of these cases could be as simple as raising awareness about Obamacare’s LGBT benefits. Although 64 percent of respondents in the focus groups knew about Obamacare’s mandate to obtain health insurance, 71 percent had not heard about new coverage options made available through the federal law.
To reverse the statistical trend and ensure Obamacare’s success, Baker says Out 2 Enroll and other groups partnering with Enroll America will have to target critical enrollment areas with large uninsured populations, including Ohio.
A recent analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati put Ohio’s population of uninsured working-age Ohioans at 1.25 million.
The outreach campaign will mostly play out in the next six months, as online marketplaces open for enrollment on Oct. 1 and remain open until April.