The Tennessee Health Care Campaign (THCC) is a nonprofit consumer health care advocacy group working for health care justice for Tennesseans. Working since 1989 to guarantee affordable health care options for all citizens, the group has collaborated with other advocacy groups and community leaders in the past.

The Affordable Care Act held a great deal of promise as it relates to moving the THCC’s goals forward, but the political climate in Tennessee and obstruction of Governor Haslam’s Insure Tennessee have created a number of obstacles that have yet to be overcome. And for specific groups, like the LGBT community, other laws have posed new threats to providing adequate and affordable care for all citizens. For instance House Bill 1840—the so-called counseling discrimination bill—clearly impacts LGBTQ citizens’ access to health care, but has wider implications for denial of services.

Provisions of the ACA are meant to prohibit just this kind of discrimination. As Walter Davis, THCC’s executive director, pointed out, the National Women’s Law Center has argued that “[ACA] Section 1557 also protects LGBT individuals through its prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity or sex stereotyping… This means that health programs that are covered by Section 1557 cannot treat people inequitably because they are pregnant, have had an abortion, are unmarried, are transgender, are gay or lesbian, or don’t meet traditional sex stereotypes.”

However, Davis acknowledged, “We have a challenge before us in Tennessee to look at the promises of new standards for health insurance coverage and what the actual treatment of LGBTQI Tennesseans is in reality.”

In order to better understand the needs of the LGBT community, as well as to work to make sure that LGBT citizens have the information they need to make informed choices about healthcare, THCC is partnering with the PFLAG Nashville to collect data, as well as to disseminate information and offer training.

“The collaboration between Nashville PFLAG and the Tennessee Health Care Campaign,” Davis said, “seeks to inform LGBTQI Tennesseans of their health insurance options but also to find out if their rights are being observed.”

THCC, PFLAG and researchers at Vanderbilt are currently working to begin circulating a survey that seeks to identify how LGBT people are being treated in the insurance marketplace, with the goal of identifying and examining at least 50 cases where discrimination has been experience in insurance coverage or in medical treatment.

Additionally, volunteers and interns will complete a review of plans offered in markets across the State of Tennessee in advance of this fall’s open enrollment to identify those of best value for LGBT community to insure that at least one plan in each major market is responsive to their special health care needs—including mental health, hormone therapy, surgery, and reproductive assistance—that is also affordable.

From an education perspective, PFLAG and THCC are seeking to develop new methods to more effectively educate and advocate around health insurance consumer issues for the LGBT. This includes working through special events, such as local Pride celebrations, PFLAG meetings and conferences, support groups, and other venues. For instance, so far this year, the two groups have done joint outreach at Pride events in Cookeville, Knoxville and Nashville.

PFLAG Nashville and THCC will also be working together to develop and pilot presentations that other PFLAG chapters across the state can use to educate members of the LGBTQ community, their families, and allies on how the ACA affects LGBT families and individuals, anti-discrimination issues, how to use health insurance coverage effectively through health insurance literacy training, and how to seek redress for plan inadequacies.

More directly, the two groups will also be conducting direct enrollment outreach to the LGBT community, families and allies, with an emphasis on reaching smaller PFLAG chapters across the state, where LGBTQ communities have fewer allies and cultural assets. Awareness of under-served communities in upper east Tennessee, Chattanooga, the upper Cumberland and west Tennessee will be at the forefront of the teams’ planning.

The groups will focus on educating those involved in providing assistance to marketplace enrollees. All navigators and certified assistance counselors associated with the two statewide networks will be offered Out2Enroll training before Open Enrollment Four of the Affordable Care Act beginning in November. This training will help professionals better assist LGBT Tennesseans in selecting the best value for their special health care needs.

Finally, the partnership will further advocacy efforts aimed at preventing the revival and passage of bills like last session’s “bathroom bills” or “religious freedom” measures. It is the belief of these advocates that effective education by the transgender community put off the “bathrooms bill,” and that greater public understanding of the issue can prevent its passage when it finally returns in the next session.

LGBT Tennesseans face an uphill battle in the fight to secure adequate and affordable healthcare, but the partnership between THCC and PFLAG Nashville seems poised to organize effective advocacy and to provide new and helpful resources for the fight going forward.

For more information about the THCC, visit their website at thcc2.org. Click here to participate in their survey.

 

 

 

 

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