Obamacare Will Help LGBT People Access Health Insurance

Our guest bloggers are Andrew Cray, health policy consultant for LGBT Progress, and Kellan Baker, health care analyst for LGBT Progress.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on the health reform law, popularly known as “Obamacare,” is a major victory for the millions of Americans who will have access to insurance for the first time under the Affordable Care Act. The law, which was a cornerstone initiative of President Obama’s first term in office, will serve as a lifeline for millions of people, including gay and transgender people, to the health care they need.

The Affordable Care Act is expected to extend health insurance coverage to more than 30 million people in 2014. Half of these people will be newly eligible for Medicaid, while the other half will be able to purchase affordable private coverage through new state health insurance exchanges.

The law requires each state to establish an exchange to make purchasing insurance simpler and more affordable for individuals and small businesses. The exchanges will function as marketplaces that allow consumers to easily compare and purchase health insurance plans, and individuals who make between $15,000 and $43,000 per year will receive subsidies to help them pay their insurance premiums.

This income bracket likely includes many gay and transgender people and their families, since discrimination in areas of everyday life such as employment and relationship recognition mean that gay and transgender people are disproportionately likely to be poor, unemployed, and uninsured.

Importantly for gay and transgender people and their families, the exchanges may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in any of their activities, and all exchange plans must offer comprehensive benefits across 10 essential health benefit categories. These categories include vital services needed by many gay and transgender people, including prescription drugs, hospital stays, and mental and behavioral health services.

Yesterday’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act means that many states will soon be racing to catch up to the 14 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have already established health insurance exchanges. As states set up their exchanges, advocates will have significant opportunities to include and engage LGBT people in working to ensure better health for everyone in America. With the clear force of law on our side, there is no better time for each of us to take action to guarantee that gay and transgender people and their families can get the care they need to stay healthy.