LGBT Week of Action; HHS’s 2015 Report on LGBT Issues

With the December 15 deadline for insurance coverage starting January 1st, Health Access participated in the LGBT Week of Action, urging LGBTQ communities throughout California to sign up for coverage.

Health is an equality issue and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers many new opportunities for LGBTQ individuals and families to get the quality, affordable health coverage and health care they deserve. The ACA makes financial assistance available to help you find a plan that fits your budget. Depending on your income and family size, subsidies are available for people making up to almost $47,000 per year for an individual or almost $80,000 for a family of three.

The ACA also establishes new LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in health coverage and health care. Thanks to these protections, married same-sex couples can now enroll together and get financial assistance together in any family plan in any state. In California, health insurance plans have to cover medically necessary care regardless of gender identity, including gender-affirming care.

Getting covered is easy: Just visit to learn more about your options and to get your questions answered. You can choose the best plan for your budget from top insurance companies. Be sure to check out the much-improved Shop and Compare tool to help you pick the best plan based on what matters to you. Free, in-person help is also available from enrollment professionals who can walk you through the application process-visit to find help from LGBT-friendly enrollment assisters in your local area. You can also call Gender Health Center in Sacramento, San Joaquin Pride Center in Stockton, or Unity Fellowship in Riverside for help enrolling in person or over the phone.

But time is running out. Check out your options and pick a plan before the December 15th deadline in order to have coverage that starts on January 1, 2016. Don’t risk missing your chance to protect your own and your family’s health and financial security-enroll in health coverage today.

As a part of LGBT Week of Action, the Department of Health and Human Services also released its 2015 Annual Report of the HHS LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee, Advancing LGBT Health and Well-being. This report outlines HHS’ commitments for the coming fiscal year and celebrates the completed commitments from the 2014 Annual Report. Many of the commitments for 2016 grew out of recommendations from the LGBT health roundtable that HHS Secretary Burwell held over the summer, attended by LGBT health advocates from across the nation, including this author.

HHS commitments for 2016 include:

  • Convening a work group to develop a common strategy for the inclusion of sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) questions in marketplace enrollment data. This group will seek to clarify the existing question regarding sex on the application, provide guidance for state marketplaces seeking to add SOGI questions to their applications, and explore the feasibility of adding SOGI questions to the federal Marketplace application.
  • Finalizing ACA section 1557 non-discrimination protections that include protection based on gender identity.
  • Informing insurance plans about their obligation to cover gender-affirming care once the non-discrimination regulations go into effect.
  • Ensuring electronic health records (EHR) have a structured way to record sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and are available for use beginning in 2016. All EHRs will need to include the ability to indicate sexual orientation and gender identity by 2018.
  • Removing the gender marker from the redesigned Medicare card to minimize harassment and violations of privacy for transgender seniors.
  • Holding stakeholder listening sessions to hear additional feedback on the proposed changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donation by any man who has had sex with a man since 1977. Draft guidance was issued in May 2015 and comments were accepted until mid-July; much of the feedback from LGBT communities focused on how the proposed changes, while an improvement, still constituted a practical ban on any sexually active gay man.

There are numerous additional achievements from 2015 and commitments for 2016 in the report, in areas including youth, seniors, immigrants, LGBT health research.