January’s enrollment updates tell us that the total number of those enrolled in Marketplace health insurance coverage hovers above two million. Another 3.9 million individuals have been determined eligible for state Medicaid and CHIP programs. And we know that more consumers are enrolling every day. Despite the slow start, this is all enormous reason to celebrate!
But, the celebratory enrollment numbers also give us the fodder to keep going, to keep finding those individuals and families who have all too frequently been denied coverage and care in the past. We don’t yet know the breakdown of how many people of a certain demographic subset have enrolled. But we do know that Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and other enrollment specialists have been targeting communities who have disproportionately higher rates of being under or uninsured. Whether it’s ensuring that enrollment materials are translated into languages other than English, that mixed-status immigrant families know that one family member’s eligibility will not hurt others’ immigration statuses, or that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) couples have access to Marketplace tax credits no matter what state they live, the need for culturally competent enrollment resources remains ever present.
Prior to Marketplaces opening, Medicaid expansions launching, and coverage beginning on January 1, more than 800,000 LGBT Americans were without health insurance. While we don’t yet know the dent that the last three months have made, there’s more work to be done to continue to reduce this number. We know that enrollment specialists need information about culturally competent enrollment practices, and the opportunity to learn new ways of making sure all consumers feel safe when selecting coverage.
In fact, when the Marketplace in Texas first opened on October 1, one enrollment specialist recalled being able to help a transgender consumer explore health insurance options because of such materials. Despite website glitches, Anne Dunkelberg of Texas Public Policy Priorities was able to support this consumer through the use of culturally competent tools, such as using the consumer’s preferred pronouns (she), and discussing that the consumer would not face discrimination in denials or pricing because of her gender identity. Anne was also able to encourage the consumer to engage in some additional research to determine which plans would cover her needs.
To read about more ways that enrollment specialists can actively support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender consumers, check out Community Catalyst’s new LGBT Cultural Competency Brief. It’s a compilation of best practices already put into place by LGBT advocates and ally organizations such as Raising Women’s Voices, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, and Out2Enroll.