19 posts categorized "Healthcare"

October 16, 2013

Open Letter to Health Reform Advocates: Pay Attention to Discrimination

This post, from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE, was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Read the original post here and follow Robert on Twitter.

Usa_healthThe harms inflicted by discrimination reveal themselves in our bodies as we age -- as people of color, as poor and low-income people, and as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The symptoms manifest as higher rates of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, depression, social isolation and more. In medical charts throughout the country, our bodies record what it means to survive a life shaped by perpetual poverty, higher concentrations in low-wage jobs with no health insurance, thin retirement options and inadequate protections in the workplace. They depict our fractured relationships to health care -- from cultural and linguistic barriers to overt bias and discrimination from health and aging providers, to a long-held, hard-earned distrust of medical staff internalized through years of differential treatment.

Our bodies confirm vividly the geographic dimensions of structural inequality, which can predict long-term health as early as childhood, based largely on where a person is born. We inhale the poison of inequality throughout our lives, and it inflames in our later years as a dismal diagnosis, a medical crisis or a preventable death. Yes, severe illness will surprise many of us at some point in our lives, and death is indiscriminate, but as empirical fact,poor health affects certain demographics disproportionately at earlier and higher rates, often the same people with no health coverage to manage the repercussions.

Continue reading "Open Letter to Health Reform Advocates: Pay Attention to Discrimination" »

October 4, 2013

Resources for Navigating the Health Insurance Marketplaces

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It’s day 4 of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces, and by many accounts, interest in the Marketplaces is high. If you’re thinking about getting coverage, but aren’t sure what to do, SAGE’s Health Insurance Action Center is a good place to start. In addition, there are many resources online to help you navigate the application process, figure out what kind of paperwork you need, and help you choose the right plan for you—the most comprehensive of these sites is Healthcare.gov.*

Here are a few other resources that can help you understand the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how the Marketplaces work. If you need health insurance, you can take your time to research all your options—the open enrollment period doesn’t end until March 31, 2014.

*If you visit Healthcare.gov, you may encounter a “wait page” because traffic to the site has been high. Please note that this is a hold page – it is not an error page.  Please be patient, wait on that page to ensure that the system works when you get in, and don’t reload your browser. 

October 1, 2013

Open Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace Starts Now!

LGBTAmericans_ACAToday is the start of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people ages 50-64, who tend to report lower rates of health insurance coverage, stand to benefit greatly from the Marketplace.

Without insurance, many people delay care, which can exacerbate poor health. LGBT people across the age span deal with significant disparities in multiple areas related to physical and mental health, and an older person’s poor health represents the cumulative effect of a lifetime of discrimination. In addition, many LGBT older people have faced discrimination in health care settings or have been denied coverage because they were transgender or living with HIV/AIDS.  

However, the ACA prevents health insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, or a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a significant step toward expanding health care access for transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS. And new benefits for elders on Medicare improve access to preventive services and reduce prescription drug costs.

Are you uninsured, or underinsured? As a Champion for Coverage, SAGE wants you to get the health insurance you need. First, determine whether you should be shopping for health insurance in the Marketplace, or if you’re already covered by another program (i.e., Medicare):

  • For older people under age 65 and uninsured, the Marketplace provides a variety of insurance plans to make health care affordable for you and your family. The Marketplace Open Enrollment period is October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. Coverage can start as soon as January 1, 2014.
  • For people age 65+ and already on Medicare, the Marketplace does not affect you. However, between October 15 and December 7, 2013, you have the opportunity to review your current health and drug prescription coverage. Visit medicare.gov or call 1-800-Medicare for information on Medicare Open Enrollment.

If you’re ready to get coverage, enrollment is easy. Download SAGE’s ACA fact sheet to learn how to get started. While there is currently a government shutdown in effect, health coverage enrollment is not affected—so don’t delay signing up! In addition, SAGE’s new Health Insurance Action Center offers an FAQ that answers a number of concerns we’ve heard from LGBT older people about the plans being offered through the Marketplace, and other resources to help you choose the plan that’s best for you. Visit today, explore your options, and enroll!

September 27, 2013

Senate Special Committee on Aging Marks National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

Aaron_taxIn recognition of National Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day, SAGE's Director of Federal Relations, Aaron Tax, gives his recap of SAGE's involvment in National HIV/AIDS & Aging Awareness Day in Washington, D.C.

On September 18, 2013, the Senate Special Committee on Aging—along with SAGE and our partners ACRIA, GMHC, HRC, and NHCOA—helped bring a series of events to Capitol Hill to mark National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.  From a morning briefing, to a hearing in the afternoon, there were a number of strong and compelling voices who spoke of the challenges the aging network, medical field, and research community face with the graying of AIDS. 

At the briefing, Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD, Medical Director, Infectious Diseases Care Center, United Medical Center, spoke of the importance of making HIV testing as routine as testing for diabetes, high cholesterol, and other issues that disproportionately impact older adults; her view was echoed by other experts attending the briefing. Including HIV in the normal battery of tests would be an important step toward lessening the stigma surrounding HIV (and HIV testing), and it would increase the likelihood that individuals would be tested regardless of actual or perceived risk category.  (Currently, HIV testing is recommended for people only up to age 64.

Dr. Henry Pacheco, Director of Medicine and Public Health for NHCOA, added the voice of one of our Diverse Elders Coalition partners.  Dr. Pacheco explained that the HIV/AIDS rate for those Latinos who are 50-plus in the United States is five times higher than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.  He talked about how the population that NHCOA serves has not been reached or targeted in outreach efforts for a variety of reasons, including the usual misconception that older adults don’t use drugs and don’t have sex, but also, cultural, linguistic, and generational barriers.  These barriers can be overcome, he said, by efforts tailored to the Hispanic community, including the use of of “pase la voz,” word-of-mouth, to spread awareness, and “charlas,” informal educational sessions, specifically designed to reach Hispanic older adults.

1senateLater in the day, at the hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) challenged the administration on whether it is properly focusing its HIV resources on prevention, treatment, and research on older adults.  And Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) focused on the more human impacts of the HIV/AIDS crisis, recalling her days as a young public official in Wisconsin, when men, she said, became afflicted with AIDS in the big cities, but were coming home to Wisconsin to die, often at young ages. Given the fact that by 2015, half of the people who are HIV positive will be over 50, we’ve certainly made progress since that time.  The day’s briefing and hearing, however, showed there is still much to be done as we face new challenges brought on by the intersection of HIV and aging.

You can view the hearing at the Special Committee on Aging’s site. (Please scroll to the 22:00 minute mark, the start of the hearing.)


For more information on HIV & Aging, download this fact sheet, handed out at the briefing and hearing.

September 26, 2013

SAGE and Pfizer’s 2013 LGBT Aging Discussion Series

Hhsbadge As part of our Affordable Care Act (ACA) knowledge series, we will be providing information throughout the month of September on the ACA. Stay tuned weekly for videos, fact sheets and informational blog posts that will get you ready for the October 1 enrollment! 

In 2013, SAGE and Pfizer cohosted a series of three panel discussions on aging issues and LGBT older adults. The second panel on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is available to view now. SAGE and Pfizer were joined by representatives from the Medicare Rights Center and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center for an overview of the ACA, what its intended goals are, and what that means for LGBT older people. The accompanying guide, which you can preview below in Issuu reader or download as a PowerPoint presentation here, is designed to encourage group discussion, and contains embedded videos of the panel, discussion questions, and suggested procedures for organizing a viewing. To view the videos only, see our YouTube playlist.

You can find the first panel on age-friendly communities in SAGE’s Resources section. The third panel on HIV and aging will be released later this fall.  

September 18, 2013

Affordable Care Act: A Big Help to HIV+ Older Adults

HhsbadgeIn honor of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, SAGE is highlighting the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and HIV+ older adults. We will be providing information throughout the month of September on the ACA. Stay tuned weekly for videos, fact sheets and informational blog posts that will get you ready for the October 1 enrollment! 

There are only 13 days left until open enrollment begins under the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA’s”) Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting October 1st individuals can enroll in insurance plans for coverage beginning on January 1, 2014. The Marketplace brings a range of options to HIV+ people for high quality insurance at lower costs.

How the Healthcare Marketplace Works

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Continue reading "Affordable Care Act: A Big Help to HIV+ Older Adults" »

September 10, 2013

Five Reasons October 1 Matters to Older People of Color

HhsbadgeSAGE will be providing information throughout the month of September on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Stay tuned weekly for videos, fact sheets and informational blog posts that will get you ready for the October 1 enrollment! 

Beginning January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires everyone to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty. To help individuals and their families find plans that fit their needs and budgets, states will run Health Insurance Marketplaces. The new Health Insurance Marketplace (“the Marketplace”) open enrollment period begins Oct. 1, 2013 and ends March 31, 2014.

1837119 (1)The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) understands that enrolling older people and their families in health coverage plans is a key part of improving the health of our nation. The DEC represents some of our most vulnerable older adults: older people of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people, many of whom begin dealing with the challenges of aging as early as their 50s. The Marketplace will impact uninsured or underinsured older people who are in the 50-64 age range differently than those who are 65 or older, many of whom are already covered by Medicare. Moreover, many elders age 65+ are confused on how the Marketplace and broader ACA implementation will affect them. Thus, there exists a need to educate them about new ACA benefits, such as expansion of Medicare benefits, lower-cost prescription drugs and free preventive services. And for uninsured older people 50-64 years old, they will need to actively interact with their Marketplace to find a health insurance plan that fits their needs.

This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is highlighting how the Marketplace affects communities of color and, as part of these efforts, asked that the DEC describe how the marketplace will impact older people of color, a percentage of whom are LGBT. Here are five reasons:

  1. The Health Insurance Marketplace offers affordable insurance to older people of color who face high poverty rates and are more likely to be uninsured than their peers—conditions that worsen with age. People of color are more likely to be poor and without health insurance coverage—they make up more than half of America’s uninsured. This demographic includes African Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives. In addition, the number of uninsured older adults age 50-64 continues to rise—from 3.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2010. These high rates of uninsured people are due in part to a history of low earnings, discrimination in health care practices and high or unaffordable premiums for health insurance for many people of color. The Marketplace will address these challenges by offering affordable coverage and financial assistance to those with lower incomes.
  2. The Health Insurance Marketplace will help to ensure that older people of color no longer feel the need to postpone critical health care services. According to the Center for American Progress, being uninsured often means postponing necessary care—and chronically ill, uninsured patients are four to six times more likely than sick patients with insurance to have problems accessing care. That’s why people of color in the U.S. are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and once diagnosed, they receive poorer care. The Marketplace will allow older people of color to manage their health more proactively, and it will also cut high out-of-pocket costs associated with emergency room visits when a crisis hits.
  3. The Health Insurance Marketplace can address the health disparities widely affecting older people of color, many of whom are LGBT. Research shows that people of color, across the age span, face significant disparities in physical and mental health. Additionally, many people of color delay care because of potential medical costs and out of fear of discrimination or cultural incompetence from medical providers. These issues are especially true for LGBT people of color who face challenges on multiple aspects of their identities. A recent research report highlighted the many ways in which policy makers and professionals can better support LGBT older people of color across areas related to health equity and health care access. It can start with making insurance more affordable and health care more prevalent.
  4. The Health Insurance Marketplace ensures that no application for health insurance is rejected due to preexisting medical conditions, such as HIV, which disproportionately affects communities of color and older people. For example, research project that within the next few years, one in two people with HIV in this country will be age 50 or older. The HIV/AIDS epidemic that has also adversely impacted LGBT people, many of whom are people of color. Prior to the ACA most states allowed health insurers to charge higher premiums because of these conditions. Insurers who sell coverage in the Marketplace will be required to accept all applicants, including those with preexisting medical conditions.
  5. The Health Insurance Marketplace supports the entire family unit, including families of choice, while honoring the role that elders play in our communities. The DEC knows well that older adults play an important role in our communities and in our families, broadly defined to include blood relatives, spouses and partners, caregivers and friends. The 2000 U.S. Census shows that 4.5 million children are living in grandparent-headed homes, many of whom are between 55 and 64. Thus, when the Marketplace supports the health and health care options of an older person of color, it also supports the lives of the many people in his/her family unit and broader ecosystem.
This entry was previously posted on August 22, 2013 on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog. Read the original here.
September 5, 2013

Health Insurance Marketplace Opens October 1

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SAGE will be providing information throughout the month of September on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Stay tuned weekly for videos, fact sheets and informational blog posts that will get you ready for the October 1 enrollment!

The Affordable Care Act, which will go into full effect on January 1, 2014, will greatly expand the health care benefits available to Americans who have no health coverage, as well as those who are underinsured. This is a boon to the millions of older Americans who are currently uninsured—in 2010, 8.9 million Americans age 50-64 had no health coverage, and this number continues to rise.

Beginning October 1, if you are under 65 and need insurance, you can shop for a plan that meets your needs in the new Health Insurance Marketplace. This video shows you how easy it is to get started.


The open enrollment period is from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014—but coverage will start as early as January 1, 2014, so sign up early! In the coming weeks, SAGE will post more information on the Health Insurance Marketplace, what benefits are available, and how to enroll. In addition, there are a number of ways you can get help or more information on the Marketplace and whether you are eligible for lower health premiums. Visit healthcare.gov to get quick answers, chat live online with a representative, or find local in-person assistance. Or call 1-800-318-2596—help is available 24/7 in 150 languages.

 

August 15, 2013

HHS awards $67 million to Navigators and recognizes SAGE as part of the 'Champions for Coverage' Network

Sec-bio-picKathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $67 million in grant awards to 105 Navigator grant applicants in Federally-facilitated and State Partnership Marketplaces. The full press release highlights new resources available to consumers to navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace. In addition to the Navigators, a full list of 'Champions for Coverage' was released. These Champions will be crucial in helping Americans with the upcoming health insurance changes.

SAGE is proud to be recognized as part of the ‘Champions for Coverage’ network—a series of organizations and business dedicated to helping people understand the options for coverage and navigating the system. We will be providing workshops and online information to help LGBT older adults understand the options in the marketplace. In the meantime, HHS is providing 24-hour helplines via the Internet and phone—with a call center staff boasting 150 different languages!

The Navigators will help consumers directly in providing unbiased information on a variety of health insurance and government programs in a culturally competent manner and also help enroll those consumers if needed. SAGE recognizes our Diverse Elders Coalition member, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), for being chosen as a Navigators in Dade County, Florida, and Dallas County, Texas.  NCHOA will be responsible for enrolling the uninsured Hispanic population in these two counties with a focus on members of this population that are socially isolated due to cultural and linguistic differences. A full list of Navigators can be found here.