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Obamacare May Alleviate Burdens of Marriage Inequality

Recently married couples leaving the courthouse in Seattle.

Recently married couples leaving the courthouse in Seattle are greeted by well-wishers on the first day of same-sex marriage in Washington state after enactment of Washington Referendum 74.

CREDIT: By Dennis Bratland/Wikimedia Commons.

In honor of National Coming Out Day on Friday, Oct. 18, Out2Enroll’s “Be Out. Be Healthy. Get Covered” campaign launched an LGBT-friendly website with advice on how to navigate the new, health-insurance marketplaces.

The gay community struggles with increased health problems in certain areas that the Affordable Care Act now mandates will be covered. With marriage equality still not granted in most states, same-sex couples are frequently not given the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including spousal rights to health insurance. According to a study by the Office on Women’s Health, lesbians and bisexual women have a higher rate of stress, smoking and obesity than the general population. Lesbians are also less likely than other women to get routine screenings that could detect cervical and breast cancer, according to a 2011 study by The Institute of Medicine by the National Academies, and a woman’s chance of surviving these types of cancers goes up significantly if the cancer is caught early. Additionally, gay men accounted for 63 percent of HIV infections in 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Out2Enroll, an effort among the Sellers Dorsey Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Federal Agencies Project, aims to demonstrate how the Affordable Care Act can alleviate some of these burdens specific to the LGBT community.

Out2Enroll’s website describes the organization as “a collaborative effort…to educate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community about their options under the Affordable Care Act” with a mission to “cut through all the noise, wade through the partisan debate, and separate fact from fiction.” The website contains frequently asked questions about coverage options, how to find care and connects with individual state websites.

The Affordable Care Act notably contains a provision that prevents insurance companies from turning anyone away from coverage based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Preventative care like counseling for obesity, drug treatment, smoking cessation programs and mental health are also mandatory for insurance companies to cover under the ACA.

In light of facts like these, the Obama administration called a meeting of LGBT leaders to the White House in mid-September where they discussed the potential impact of the ACA and how  leaders could spread the word. Out2Enroll is working toward this goal.

Bluntly put, “[Obamacare] is not about politics,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “It’s about dignity.”

This article originally appeared in The Gavel, a student publication at Boston College that receives funding and training as a member of the Generation Progress journalism network.

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