It is with great pride that we’re posting this blog today! Last night, Community Catalyst was honored at Mass Equality’s annual Icon Awards, recognizing our role as an ally organization in improving access to health coverage for LGBT individuals and their families, both here in Massachusetts, but also on a national level. The Boston Globe provided an excellent write-up in advance of the honor, and our partners from the Center for American Progress presented us with such a heartfelt award.

Within the last two years, Community Catalyst been learning about and digging deeper into the inequities that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and especially TransgenderExecutive Director, Robert Restuccia accepts MassEquality's 2014 Community Icon Award from Kellan Baker of the Center for American Progress. people face in accessing affordable, comprehensive health coverage. Our health equity work has expanded to include LGBT health equity, and we’ve been thrilled to partner with advocates across the country, supporting consumer health advocates as they develop sustained partnerships with their respective state LGBT organizations. These efforts are springing up around the country, and not just in those states that we might deem the ‘likely suspects.’ For example, Community Catalyst has recently been able to support partnerships between advocates from Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Equality as they promote the state’s Medicaid expansion, and Utah Health Policy Project and Utah Pride Center as they work to ensure non-discriminatory health coverage by collecting stories of disparities and success.

We’ve shared policy, grassroots, and coalition successes from one state to the next. The Community Catalyst team has been able to spotlight work in Colorado between Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ONE Colorado, ensuring that insurance plans do not discriminate against transgender consumers, and the efforts by the LGBT Task Force in New York, identifying the key culturally competent practices to ensure that LGBT consumers can enroll into insurance coverage without facing additional barriers. The work occurring throughout the nation is impressive, and we are honored to be collaborating with other organizations to boost this initiative.

We also believe that our external efforts are not as effective if we do not reflect this effort internally, as well. Here in Massachusetts, Community Catalyst has convened a workgroup of key partners- including MassEquality, Health Care for All, Health Law Advocates, AIDS Action, GLAD, and Eastern Bank to encourage the state’s Division of Insurance to require all private insurance plans remove their transgender exclusions. But our efforts on the statewide level actually began at home.

About a year ago, we realized that our own health insurance coverage failed to provide transgender people with the same comprehensive coverage as their non-transgender peers. After many conversations, and a careful consideration of our own values, Community Catalyst recently switched carriers, resulting in a benefits package that no longer excludes coverage for “transsexual surgery, including related procedures,” as our old plan elected to do. We couldn’t be prouder to have made this change, to be collaborating with these partners, and to be collectively working towards LGBT health equity.