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Affordable Care Act: Key lessons for LGBT outreach and enrollment

The Affordable Care Act's initial open enrollment period offered significant opportunities to reach LGBT consumers, but the visibility and effectiveness of these efforts varied significantly by state.

According to a new report from Out2Enroll, a nationwide campaign dedicated to connecting LGBT people with their coverage options, variation largely resulted from the level of formal marketplace commitment to LGBT inclusion and the extent to which LGBT community and allied organizations were able to participate in the health reform effort.

The first open enrollment period showed, however, that these opportunities may not be fully realized if outreach and enrollment efforts do not effectively engage LGBT people and their families.

The new report from the Out2Enroll campaign — a collaborative LGBT outreach and enrollment initiative from the Center for American Progress, the Sellers Dorsey Foundation, and the Federal Agencies Project — analyzes a variety of stakeholder interviews to look in depth at LGBT-oriented community engagement efforts over the first open enrollment period.

The report assesses promising practices, identifies remaining concerns, and offers concrete recommendations to help the marketplaces and other stakeholders effectively connect LGBT people with their new coverage options.

The report’s major findings include:

• The visibility and effectiveness of LGBT-oriented outreach and enrollment varied significantly by state.

• Stakeholders took advantage of a variety of strategies and opportunities to engage LGBT people.

• LGBT outreach was complicated in many states by uncertainty surrounding outstanding policy issues related to relationship recognition for same-sex couples, transgender coverage exclusions, HIV coverage, and plan transparency.

“With one in three low- and middle-income LGBT people uninsured before the launch of open enrollment in 2013, the ACA’s efforts to close the coverage gap are an incredible opportunity to improve the health and financial security of millions of LGBT Americans,” said Kellan Baker, associate director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress and an Out2Enroll steering committee member.

“This report identifies many promising outreach and enrollment practices but also underscores the need for more targeted efforts to make sure that the benefits of the law reach everyone who needs them, including LGBT people.”

The report’s specific recommendations include:

• Outreach and enrollment efforts in every state should explicitly include LGBT communities.

• LGBT-specific cultural-competency training should be provided for outreach and enrollment personnel.

• Voluntary demographic information on sexual orientation and gender identity should be collected through health insurance marketplace applications.

Click HERE to read the report.