At least seven D.C.-based LGBT or LGBT-friendly organizations sprang into action on Tuesday to help members of the LGBT community and people with HIV choose a health insurance plan under the controversial U.S. Affordable Care Act that’s better known as “Obamacare.”
Similar to reports surfacing from across the country, officials from the local groups said some of their clients encountered computer glitches on the website for D.C. Health Link, the city’s online health insurance marketplace or “exchange” on its first day of operations on Tuesday.
But all of the officials contacted by the Blade said they were optimistic that the exchange program in D.C. and those in neighboring Maryland and Virginia would soon be operating smoothly and would be an important resource for LGBT people looking for health insurance.
“I’m excited about it,” said Ron Simmons, executive director of the D.C.-based Us Helping Us, an HIV services organization that reaches out to black gay men.
“We have so many clients who don’t have health insurance,” Simmons said. “If you are HIV positive you need a certain type of insurance, and we are ready to help people choose the best policy suited for their needs.”
Us Helping Us is one of five D.C.-based organizations that received a grant from the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority to recruit members of the LGBT community to sign up for insurance under the Obamacare program. The grant calls on the five groups — as well as another 30 organizations that received grants to work with other constituencies — to help their clients navigate the complicated process of choosing the best possible insurance plan.
The other organizations that received grants to work with the LGBT community on the Obamacare program are Whitman-Walker Health, D.C. Care Consortium, Damien Ministries and Health HIV.
Health HIV, a new national AIDS advocacy organization located in the Dupont Circle area, applied for its grant in partnership with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and Westminster Presbyterian Church’s START program. The START program provides HIV/AIDS-related services with a special outreach to people with substance abuse problems.
“This is an important opportunity to engage our communities in a conversation about healthcare and for us all to better understand the changes that are taking place in the healthcare system,” said David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. Center.
“Our goal is to help 300 individuals enroll in a healthcare plan and to make the process as simple as possible for them,” Mariner said.
Simmons of Us Helping Us said his group has a goal of helping to enroll 1,000 people on a health insurance plan through the D.C. Health Link system during the nine-month-long grant period.
“We will have town hall meetings,” said Simmons. “We will go to the clubs. Our purpose is to help people enroll in the plan best for them.”
Under the Affordable Care Act’s various provisions, Tuesday, Oct. 1, became the first day that the health insurance exchanges opened for business, enabling people to review dozens of options for insurance plans. Consumers may sign up for a plan between now and next March during the program’s first annual open enrollment period. Insurance policies won’t go into effect until Jan. 1.
In order to receive a policy that begins Jan. 1, people must sign up and pay their first monthly premium by Dec. 15, government officials in charge of the program said. People may still sign up between Dec. 15 and March 31, with their policy taking effect at the first day of the following month. After the March 31 deadline, enrollment in the program will be closed until October 2014.
Experts monitoring the system have said the cost of premiums and additional payments such as deductibles and co-payments for doctor visits and prescription drugs vary widely with the different options available. But those familiar with the program say the costs so far appear to be significantly lower than health insurance available in the past in the private market.
Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, a national AIDS advocacy organization, noted that low-income people may now enroll in Medicaid in the states that have agreed to expand their Medicaid programs under a non-mandatory provision of the Affordable Care Act. D.C. and Maryland opted to become part of the expanded Medicaid program while Virginia declined to do so.
Schmid points out that prior to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid provision, which took effect last year, low-income people with HIV who didn’t have private health insurance were not eligible for Medicaid unless they were medically disabled with an AIDS diagnosis.
“So now people with HIV who don’t have full-blown AIDS qualify for Medicaid,” Schmid said. “Our goal, of course, is to keep these people healthy.”
Schmid and others familiar with the Obamacare program note that in Virginia and other states that chose not to participate in the expanded Medicaid program, people with incomes below a certain federally defined level are eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for their insurance premiums and co-pays.
Erin Loubier, director of public benefits and senior managing attorney for Whitman-Walker Health, said people with HIV and LGBT people whose income levels may not make them eligible for the subsidies will benefit from another provision of the healthcare law already in effect.
“Anyone living with HIV or another chronic health condition will be able to get insurance,” she said, noting that prior to the Obamacare law insurance companies routinely rejected people with a pre-existing condition.
She said the generally lower prices for premiums through the exchanges will also benefit those who aren’t eligible for subsidies.
Under its grant from the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, Whitman-Walker will provide its clients as well as non-clients the services of trained “navigators” or “assisters” to help people choose the best insurance policy through D.C. Health Link. According to Loubier, Whitman-Walker will also provide training for people to become navigators and, similar to Us Helping Us, will reach out into the community to recruit people to sign up for insurance under the Obamacare program.
“The role of these assisters is critical,” she said. “Even computer savvy people may not be able to navigate the system by themselves.”
Guy Westin, executive director of D.C. Care Consortium, which provides services to people with HIV, said his group is providing navigator services to individuals as well as non-profit community organizations about the enrollment process for Obamacare.
D.C. gay businessman David Franco, owner of the clothing store chain Universal Gear and the real estate development company Level Two, said he was pleased to discover that prices announced so far by insurance companies offering employer health plans for small businesses are lower than previously available plans.
“I was able to see in a matter of 15 minutes with a couple of clicks on my keyboard what my rate would be and compare that to an equivalent plan and see the savings that are offered by different insurance companies,” Franco said.
“So the fact that you’ve got this open, free market has really created this price competition, and it’s going to drop the overall cost for the plan for all of my employees,” he said.
Franco was among several D.C.-area advocates who spoke at a news conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday called by D.C. Health Link and the healthcare consumers’ group Families USA to draw attention to what they consider the strong advantages of the Obamacare program.
Similar to Americans across the country, local LGBT advocates working on the Obamacare program say some LGBT people will likely be surprised and put off when they realize they will be subjected to a $95 tax penalty from the IRS in 2014 if they don’t have insurance and fail to buy a policy under the new program. The penalty for not having insurance in 2015 goes up to $700.
Federal officials in charge of Obamacare point out that people who already have insurance either through their employer or on the private market and people already on Medicaid or Medicare will not be required to do anything under the new program. Their insurance status will remain as it is, officials said.
Following is a list of the seven D.C.- based organizations known to be providing services to the help the LGBT community and people with HIV access the Obamacare program, including the process of singing up for an insurance plan. Officials with the groups say it’s preferable to call first for an appointment but walk-ins are accommodated when possible.
1701 14th St., N.W.
Us Helping Us
3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.
D.C. Care Consortium
7059 Blaire Road, N.W., Suite
2000 S St., N.W.
2200 Rhode Island Ave., N.E.
D.C. Center for the LGBT Community
1318 U St., N.W.
START Program at Westminster Presbyterian Church
400 I St., S.W.
Md. biotech company’s HIV cure project clears first hurdle
‘We all have something to be excited about’
American Gene Technologies, the Rockville, Md., biotech company, has announced that the first patient to receive its genetically engineered treatment therapy aimed at curing people of HIV/AIDS encountered no adverse side effects from the treatment.
In an Aug. 2 statement, AGT said that based on the data obtained from Patient One in its Phase 1 human trial of its HIV treatment called AGT103-T, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Data and Safety Monitoring Board voted unanimously to allow AGT to continue its HIV cure program without modification.
“The AGT103-T pipeline is a therapy for treating HIV disease,” the company’s statement says. “The therapy is designed to induce durable viral suppression by delivering therapeutic genes to the recipient’s immune cells,” it says. “The resulting immune cells are expected to survive attack by HIV and durably suppress the virus at undetectable levels without the need for antiretroviral treatment.”
The thumbs up decision by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board allows the company to continue its clinical trial with more participants to further confirm the HIV treatment’s safety outcome. The next phase in the trials will be to determine the treatment’s effectiveness in fully protecting the human body from HIV.
“We have six more patients,” said AGT CEO Jeff Galvin in referring to the patients who will be tested for possible adverse side effects in the coming weeks. Galvin spoke at a July 29 gathering to celebrate the success of Patient One at AGT’s headquarters offices in Rockville.
“If this works, they will be permanently immune from HIV,” he said. “Just think what this can do with the epidemic. We all have something to be excited about,” he told the gathering of about 100 people.
“Keep your fingers crossed. Let’s all keep hoping and praying,” Galvin said. “We will know by the middle of next year,” he said, referring to when the human trials will likely determine whether the AGT103-T treatment, which has successfully stopped HIV from infecting human cells in laboratory experiments, will work just as effectively on people with HIV.
92% of LGBTQ+ adults have received at least one dose for COVID-19
59% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported Covid-19 made them feel socially isolated, & 50% reported that it impacted their mental health.
NEW YORK – A summary of data collected as part of the annual LGBTQ+ Community Survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership and supported by The Rockefeller Foundation in New York City, found that the vast majority – 92% – of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed in the United States had received at least one vaccination for Covid-19.
Although vaccination rates vary somewhat within the LGBTQ+ community, the rates across race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, and age are well above the rates for various general adult populations where the data are available:
- By race and ethnicity, 90% of Latinx respondents, 85% of Black respondents, 96% of Asian or Pacific Islander respondents, and 85% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ adults, among other race identities have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
- By gender identity and sexual orientation, 92% of cisgender lesbian and bi+ women, 93% of cisgender gay and bi+ men, and 92% of transgender and non-binary people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
- By age, 91% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 18-34, 92% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 35-5, and 94% of LGBTQ+ respondents aged 55 and older have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine
While vaccination rates are high, Covid-19 took a toll on well-being among respondents. The survey finds that 59% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that Covid-19 made them feel socially isolated, and 50% of respondents reported that it impacted their mental health.
“Increasing vaccination rates among communities of color is a major focus for us, and working with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation gives us the opportunity to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTQ communities of color. We look forward to continuing our support and outreach.” said Otis Rolley, Senior Vice President of Equity and Economic Opportunity at The Rockefeller Foundation.
The data finds the Covid-19 pandemic led to social and financial loss, especially among LGBTQ+ people of color:
- 21% of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed reported that a close family member or friend has died from Covid-19
- LGBTQ+ people of color surveyed reported higher levels of loss due to Covid-19 compared to white LGBTQ+ people:
- 30% of Latinx LGBTQ+ respondents
- 28% of Black LGBTQ+ respondents
- 25% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ respondents, among other race identities
- 18% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ respondents
- 17% of white LGBTQ+ respondents
- 36% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that a close friend or family member has become very sick from Covid-19
- 24% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported that Covid-19 has negatively impacted their financial well-being
- LGBTQ+ people of color surveyed are more likely than white LGBTQ+ people to have experienced a negative financial impact during the pandemic:
- 33% of Native American/Alaskan and Middle Eastern/North African LGBTQ+ adults, among other race identities
- 26% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ adults
- 26% of Latinx LGBTQ+ adults
- 25% of Black LGBTQ+ adults
- 22% of white LGBTQ+ adults
“There are many reasons why LGBTQ+ vaccination rates may be higher than the general population, including higher percentages of the LGBTQ+ community being liberal, living in blue states, and living in urban areas,” said CMI Senior Director of Research, David Paisley. “While participants had strong education levels, those with no more than a high school diploma still had an 87% vaccination rate. We also see that Covid isolation significantly impacted LGBTQ+ people, which may have motivated quick vaccination to reenter the community.”
The new data build on the HRC Foundation’s previously released reports, including the most recent report, “Covid-19 and the LGBTQ Community: Vaccinations and the Economic Toll of the Pandemic,” which was released as a part of the HRC Foundation’s vaccine public education campaign: “For Ourselves, For Each Other: Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic.” The HRC Foundation has also partnered with the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition on a resource, “Finding Financial Stability During Turbulent Times,” with steps and advice for those who may be struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times. Read more about the HRC Foundation’s efforts during Covid-19 here.
The Rockefeller Foundation is supporting the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on a number of Covid-19-related projects to support research and community education to reach LGBTQ communities of color during this crisis through The Rockefeller Foundation’s Equity-First Vaccination Initiative. Learn more here.
Cornell University study on impact of discrimination on LGBTQ of color
Around 25% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, but the rates are starkly higher for LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts
ITHACA, NY. – Cornell University’s What We Know Project in conjunction with a coalition of leading LGBTQ rights groups last month published a comprehensive curation of data on studies that chart the intersection of anti-LGBTQ and racial discrimination.
The findings found that discrimination inflicts profoundly greater harm on LGBTQ people of color in a wide range of areas, including grossly disproportionate rates of: experiencing discrimination over the past year, poorer mental and physical health, greater economic insecurity, and attempts to die by suicide.
In addition, LGBTQ people of color are more likely than white LGBTQ people to live in states without protections against discrimination and that state anti-LGBTQ laws harm LGBTQ people.
“This research brief makes clear the tangible harms that discrimination inflicts on LGBTQ people of color, and the urgent need for public policy that reflects what the research tells us about how we can reduce those harms,” said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, the study’s author.
LGBTQ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be people of color, and Black LGBTQ Americans are disproportionately likely to live in states without protections against discrimination. For example, 42% of LGBT people are people of color compared to 32% of non-LGBT people and the majority of Black LGBT Americans live in the South (51.4%, more than twice the share of any other region), where most states lack anti-discrimination protections.
LGBTQ people of color face higher odds of discrimination than both non-LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ white people. For example, LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely to experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination (slurs or other verbal abuse) when applying for jobs than white LGBTQ individuals (32% vs. 13%). LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination when interacting with the police (24% vs. 11%).
Black LGBT Americans are more likely to experience economic insecurity than Black non-LGBT Americans. For example, the majority of Black LGBT people (56%) live in low-income households (below 200% of the federal poverty level) compared to 49% of Black non-LGBT Americans, and Black LGBT adults are also more likely to experience food insecurity than Black non-LGBT adults (37% compared to 27%).
Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of poor mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use, and psychological distress.
LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is linked to discrimination. For example, while 12% of white LGBTQ youth attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous youth, 21% for LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% of LGBTQ Latinx youth.
While supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people of color, anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. For example, states with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents between 2014 and 2016 were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress. Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%).
Supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people of color.
• Suicide attempts by LGBT youth dropped by 7 percent in states that legalized same-sex marriage.22
• The corollary is that anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. States with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress.23
• Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%). Those with high levels of family support had rates of past-year attempted suicide nearly one third as high as those who lacked such support (22% vs. 8%).24
• Protective measures that have been found to help reduce anxiety, depression, and suicidality among LGBTQ youth include: Establishing inclusive practices and anti-discrimination policies; peer, community, and family support, including dedicated school groups; access to affirmative mental health and social services; societal confrontation of attitudes and norms that exacerbate minority stress; and practitioner training and interventions designed to disrupt negative coping responses and build resilience.
Experiencing discrimination is associated with greater odds of harm to psychological and economic well-being, which is reflected in data on disparities for LGBTQ people of color.
• Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of poor mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use, and psychological distress.
• LGBT people of color have work-place experiences that are more negative than those of white LGBT employees, reporting that their success and work-life balance are fostered less extensively, they have less transparent evaluations, and they are respected less by supervisors.
• Among LGBTQ people surveyed, 51% of Black respondents say discrimination harms their ability to be hired, compared with 33% of white respondents; 41% say it has an impact on their ability to retain employment, compared with 31% of white respondents; 77% of Black respondents report that discrimination impacts their psychological well-being, a rate nearly 50% higher than the total LGBTQ survey population.
• While racial discrimination on its own is not associated with mental health disorders, the combination of racial discrimination with gender and/or sexual orientation discrimination is significantly associated with increased odds of a past-year mental health disorder.
LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is linked to discrimination.
• Around 25% of LGBTQ youth of all races have attempted suicide, but the rates are starkly higher for LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts: While 12% of white LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous youth, 21% for LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% for LGBTQ Latinx youth.
• In a 95%-non-white LGBT sample, those who report experiencing anti-LGBT victimization (such as bullying and harassment) are 2.5 times more likely to report a past-year suicide attempt compared to those who do not report victimization.
• Black LGBTQ youth who experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination face twice the rate of past year suicide attempts compared to youth who do not (27% vs. 12%). Black LGBTQ youth who experience race-based discrimination also face higher odds of attempting suicide than those who do not (20% vs. 14%).
• Black LGB adults are over 40% more likely to have made a serious suicide attempt in their lifetime than white LGB adults.
• Latinx and Native American/Pacific Islander LGBT youth are 50% more likely to attempt suicide than white LGBT youth. Latinx LGBT girls are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide than white LGBT youth.
• LGBTQ students who experience discrimination “based on multiple social identities” report more use of deliberate self-harm compared to LGBTQ students who experience racial discrimination alone or who do not experience significant discrimination of any kind.
Reflecting on the study’s findings, key executives from participating LGBTQ Advocacy groups weighed in:
“These painful figures highlight an indisputable link between discrimination, economic security, mental and physical health. People with multiple stigmatized, marginalized social and political identities, particularly Black LGBTQ+/Same Gender Loving people, bear a disproportionate amount of the weight illustrated by the data in this study. Statutory equality for LGBTQ+ people nationwide is a necessary foundation to remove the gaps in existing civil rights laws if we are to ever live up to our country’s founding promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all,” said David Johns, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition.
The majority of Black LGBTQ people live in the South, with nearly half (44%) of all Black women couples raising children. Even today, most of these states still do not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and have overtly discriminatory laws on their books. It is no wonder the disparities are so profound and it is a testament to the strength and resilience of our people that they are doing as well as they are. For our community and for our children it’s time for federal action!” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force.
“This important brief only further solidifies what we have known for a very long time—the combination of racism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination has serious and long-lasting effects for the health and well-being of LGBTQ people of color. This research highlights why federal non-discrimination protections are overdue and vital to protecting the most some of the most underrepresented and vulnerable members of our community. Federal anti-discrimination protections are absolutely necessary in protecting and supporting all LGBTQ people, and this is especially true for LGBTQ people of color,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“Study after study shows that nondiscrimination protections improve economic opportunities, public safety, and physical and mental well-being of LGBTQ people. It is well past time for the essential protections available only in some of our states and cities to be extended to all LGBTQ Americans, especially LGBTQ people of color, who are disproportionately burdened by the lack of protections, ” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and National Campaign Director, Freedom for All Americans.
Blogging my first overseas vacation since COVID
Conservatives blame pro-trans policy after assaults in Loudoun schools
Jamaica man attacked after using gay dating app
‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ clouds Powell’s legacy
Colin Powell, leaving mixed legacy on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ dies at 84
Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack
LGBTQ people are being hunted down in Afghanistan
NSYNC star Lance Bass & husband Michael Turchin welcome twins
LGBTQ youth inspired to action by “Cured” documentary and country’s homophobic past
HRC global workplace initiative expands to Argentina, Brazil
Sign Up for Blade eBlasts
National7 days ago
Colorado first state to require transgender care as essential health benefit
Local6 days ago
AU student expelled over arrest in attack on gay Asian man, parents
World5 days ago
LGBTQ Venezuelan migrants in Colombia struggle to survive
Local7 days ago
Two remaining defendants in D.C. trans murder case accept plea bargain
Politics4 days ago
Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack
Commentary5 days ago
LGBTQ people are being hunted down in Afghanistan
Opinions5 days ago
Proposed zoning code changes will harm Rehoboth
Arts & Entertainment3 days ago
NSYNC star Lance Bass & husband Michael Turchin welcome twins