On Tuesday, October 1, the ACA’s public health insurance marketplaces will open across the nation. For the first time in U.S. history, affordable healthcare coverage will be accessible to all Americans. Maryland’s marketplace, called Maryland Health Connection (MHC) is expected to offer 93 different insurance plans to address the state’s medical, mental, and behavioral healthcare needs. In January 2014, Maryland will also expand its Medicaid program to extend coverage to people who were not previously eligible.
“The number of choices will be dizzying,” says Equality Maryland’s Executive Director Carrie Evans. “Fortunately, actual coverage doesn’t begin until January 1 and enrollment remains open until March 31. LGBT consumers have time to consider their options.”
During the transition to Obamacare, LGBT consumers will be able to shop online, by telephone, or in person to find the plan that meets their needs and to connect with programs that make healthcare coverage affordable. Toll-free help lines, online comparison tools, and in-person advisors called “healthcare navigators” will be available to assist throughout the selection and enrollment process.
“We have hired new case managers whose focus is to assist patients in the enrollment process at our offices across the state,” says Tracey Gersh, Chief Program Officer for Chase Brexton Health Care. “We are also planning to partner with Equality Maryland to offer public forums in the fall. Healthcare consumers need to be educated about their options.”
Those who will benefit most from ACA include anyone who is uninsured, underinsured, unhappy with current coverage, or dependent on “payer-of-last-resort” programs (such as Ryan White Care Act funds) for healthcare coverage. By March 31, most people in these categories must either enroll in government-sponsored healthcare coverage (such as Maryland’s expanded Medicaid program) or enroll in an insurance plan offered by the MHC marketplace. Anyone who has not enrolled in healthcare coverage by the deadline risks facing tax penalties.
“Equality Maryland hopes to review all of the MHC plans so that we can provide the community with information about their coverage for LGBT-supportive healthcare,” says Evans.
The Sellers Dorsey Foundation, Center for American Progress, and the Federal Agencies Project have also joined forces to create Out2Enroll, a campaign designed to inform LGBT communities about new coverage options and to encourage LGBT individuals to enroll. To date, Out2Enroll has released a fact sheet called “Connecting with Coverage: 4 Things LGBT People Need to Know about the Health Insurance Marketplaces” and sponsored a White House briefing about ACA for LGBT community leaders.
On October 11 (National Coming Out Day), Out2Enroll will launch a website tailored to LGBT community concerns, including information about same-sex partner coverage, transgender-inclusive coverage, and LGBT-inclusive discrimination protections. At press time, visitors to Out2Enroll.org could view a video of highlights from the White House briefing and sign up to receive e-mail updates about the campaign.
Of course, many LGBT Marylanders will be unaffected by ACA’s reform of healthcare coverage. Anyone who is covered by an employers’ healthcare plan can continue with existing coverage. Anyone who is currently eligible for Medicare and Medicaid should also be unaffected by the change.
Doug Rose is volunteer communications coordinator for Equality Maryland and a leader in the Moving Maryland Forward Network.
ACA Resources for LGBT Marylanders
Chase Brexton Health Care
Healthcare Access Maryland
Maryland Health Connection
855.642.8572 • TTY 855.642.8573
“What Does Healthcare Reform Mean for You?” HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet
“Connecting with Coverage” LGBT Fact Sheet