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Three state public health and policy announcements could be critical for LGBTQ communities in New York State

Callen-Lorde is optimistic as Governor Cuomo shores up healthcare access structures that are vitally important to LGBTQ communities in New York State. In recent weeks, the Governor has proposed additional and enhanced regulatory protections for transgender New Yorkers in anticipation of a potential roll back of the Affordable Care Act’s key non-discrimination provision, Section 1557. He has made good on his previous commitment to eliminate hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) by announcing his plan to appoint a state Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force and announcing an initial $5 million in new funding for hepatitis C services. Finally, most recently, he has directed the state Department of Financial Services to reject any insurance rate increase tied to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

“Our communities still face major gaps in insurance access, more than troubling disparities in health outcomes and persistent discrimination when accessing health services,” says Wendy Stark, Executive Director for Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. “Governor Cuomo’s efforts to protect and strengthen our state’s public health programs and health care access are critically needed.”

As a community health center, Callen-Lorde serves nearly 18,000 patients a year, more than one-third of whom are uninsured. Callen-Lorde provided insurance navigation to more than 3,500 individuals in 2017 and enrolled more than 2,500 of those into plans on the New York State of Health insurance market place.

  • Insurance Rates: New York health insurers have asked the state for an average 24 percent premium increase for 2019. Half of that average increase is attributed to the repeal of the individual mandate, according to the state Department of Financial Services, which is responsible for approving or changing insurers’ requests. The directive prevents insurers from inappropriately profiting from changes to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Hepatitis C: New York State would be the first state in the nation to create and implement a plan to eliminate hepatitis C, and Cuomo has also committed to regulatory changes that will help to expand treatment, increase Medicaid services (including harm reduction services), expand syringe exchange access, remove insurance barriers to treatment, and improve hepatitis C awareness.
    • Callen-Lorde – along with 146 other clinics, hospitals, organizations and entities statewide – endorsed the NYS Hepatitis C Elimination Consensus Statement last year, calling on the Governor, the NYS Legislature and industry partners to make a joint commitment to hepatitis C elimination, with a formal Task Force to establish a statewide elimination plan. Callen-Lorde also was a signatory on a sign-on letter from community partners delivered days before the Governor’s announcement.
    • Callen-Lorde cares predominantly for LGBTQ communities and people living with HIV and has recently established a Hepatitis C clinic initiative to addresses increases in infection rates among its patients living with HIV. Callen-Lorde Hepatitis has thus far been able to connect over 50% of patients in its care living with Hepatitis C to the cure.
  • Transgender Healthcare: Cuomo (1) directed the State Department of Health to issue a regulation requiring all New York State hospitals to update their statements of patient rights to prohibit discrimination against transgender patients; (2) directed the state Department of Financial Services (DFS) to issue new regulations expanding anti-discriminations protections for transgender individuals seeking access to health insurance in both large and small group policies, and; (3) directed DFS to issue a circular letter reminding industry participants that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is already prohibited.

“It is heartening that our state, and our Governor, are willing to take bold action to prevent corporate insurance market profiteering, to invest in – and expand – sound public health programs that will eliminate Hepatitis C and aggressively take steps to prevent discrimination in healthcare experienced by transgender and gender non-binary New Yorkers,” said Stark. “Taken together, these actions give us hope that we can continue to progress in New York, not regress. We look forward to partnering with our decision makers to ensure full implementation of these promising initiatives. ”

Born out of the Stonewall Era, Callen-Lorde is rooted in the ideals of health equity. Our unwavering mission is to provide sensitive, quality health care and related services primarily targeting New York’s LGBT communities and to be welcoming to all regardless of ability to pay.