The state’s largest LGBT lobbying group announced this week that it’s received a $250,000 grant to help marginalized LGBTs get health care.
Equality California will use funding from the California Endowment for a campaign it’s calling “Health Happens with Equality.”
The money will be used to educate and enroll “at-risk” community members in health care plans approved as part of Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform signed into law in 2010, EQCA announced April 3. Workers will reach out to thousands of LGBT Californians who are uninsured, including many who’ve never had insurance before.
“LGBT Americans experience health disparities and are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s a new day,” Herb K. Schultz, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region IX Director and an LGBT appointee in the Obama Administration, said in a statement from EQCA. “Beginning in January 2014, all Americans will have access to quality, affordable coverage through the new health insurance marketplace – where they can begin to shop for and easily compare health insurance plans.”
EQCA Executive Director John O’Connor stated that the grant “gives us the ability to literally save the lives of some of the most marginalized amongst us.”
In an interview, O’Connor said the work would begin “immediately” Saturday, April 6, primarily with people in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, where several agencies have planned an LGBTQ forum.
Jack Lorenz, EQCA’s deputy director for programs and development, said the yearlong project would be run like a political campaign, with phone and door-to-door canvassing and other efforts. The grant includes five sub-grants, at about $10,000 each, to talk to transgender people, Latinos, African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.
EQCA will use the California Endowment money to hire three to seven people. With additional funding the gay nonprofit hopes to get from Covered California, a state health exchange program meant to expand coverage, there could be from 15 to 20 people hired for the project altogether, Lorenz said. The California Endowment grant will be administered through the Equality California Institute, EQCA’s educational arm.
Workers will be reaching out to people in areas including the Central and Coachella valleys, Inland Empire, Palm Springs, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Lorenz said the agency hasn’t yet identified places in Northern California.
Besides outreach worker salaries, the money will also be used to cover travel, administrative costs, and other expenses. After a year, EQCA will have a chance to renew the grant, with which the organization hopes to reach 15,000 people with the California Endowment grant.
O’Connor said 15,000 isn’t “a huge number,” but he said, “It’s a very important population that’s more difficult to reach than the general LGBT population.” The figure “takes into account the urgency of dedicating more time and attention to the hard-to-reach population.” Those people may include people living in homeless shelters, drug addicts living in rehabs, and sex workers.
EQCA will identify and reach target populations through coalition building, outreach, and hiring specific to population, gender, and geography.
Workers will explain what the Affordable Care Act is and how the Covered California health exchange program can benefit them, and encourage them to sign up when enrollment starts in October.
“LGBT Californians were the pioneers of patients’ rights,” said Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at the California Endowment, a private foundation dedicated to education, expanding health access, and health equality. “It makes sense for Equality California to be in the vanguard of today’s historic opportunity to improve the health of our state.”