The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released an issue brief, “Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals in the U.S.” The brief provides a current overview of LGBT health status, coverage, and access in this country.  It also reviews the implications of the ACA, the overturning of Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), and other recent policy developments for LGBT individuals and their families.

Specifically, the brief discusses

  • challenges and barriers LGBT individuals often face when accessing health services, such as stigma, discrimination, violence, denial of care because of sexual orientation status or gender identity and the provision of substandard care;
  • chronic health disparities among certain groups within the LGBT community; and
  • changes in the legal and policy landscape to increase access to health care and health insurance coverage for LGBT communities.

The entire Kaiser brief can also be found here.

The Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA) released its 2014 health plan report cards today.  The report cards allow consumers to compare health plans based on a simplified rating system.

The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) admits that over 600,000 applications are pending in the Medi-Cal backlog.  A handful of applications in the backlog have been waiting for approval since October 2013.  If you need health care now, you should call your local county welfare department and request that your Medi-Cal application is expedited due to medical need.   The county should pull your application from the backlog and process it immediately.

Beginning Thursday, May 15, Covered California will launch a limited-time special-enrollment period for people who have COBRA health insurance and would like to switch to an exchange plan (Covered CA).

People who have health coverage through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) will be eligible to shop for and buy coverage through Covered California fromMay 15 through July 15, 2014. The two-month window mirrors a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruling announced May 2 that allows COBRA enrollees to buy plans through the federal exchange until July 1.

This temporary special enrollment period is in addition to the remaining and continuing Special Enrollment Periods.

As of May 1, 2014, certain diagnostic, preventive and restorative adult dental benefits have been restored, as will some endodontic and prosthodontic procedures.

A list of restored adult dental benefits are available in this Denti-Cal Bulletin.  Full descriptions of these codes can be found in the Manual of Criteria here.  Please note that a new Manual of Criteria will be effective starting June 1, 2014.

California spent $500,000 on a website redesign in hopes that more veterans will apply and receive the benefits they deserve.  If you are a veteran or working with veterans, please visit the CalVet website.

UCLA Health Policy brief details the shortage of dentists in California.  Dentists complained about the termination of Denti-Cal and the economic downturn as possible reasons for the shortage.  Denti-Cal will be partially restored starting May 1, 2014.

Covered California is California’s Health Benefits Exchange.  You can apply three ways: 1) online; 2) call 1-800-300-1506; or 3) search for local help in your neighborhood.

Deadline is March 31st.

How do I get information about Covered California?

Covered California is a health benefit exchange enacted in response to the 2010 Affordable Care Act that provides private health plans at good value.  You can find more information directly on the Covered California website, which includes a helpful “Shop and Compare Tool” that allows comparisons of health plans.

Consumers can use the tool to choose the coverage that works best for their needs and budget. Each plan is required to provide Essential Health Benefits, including ER services, maternity, newborn care and prescription drugs.

How can I enroll for Covered California?

There are several avenues to enroll in Covered California:

1.  Online at the Covered California website, which provides information about each health insurance plan in clear and simple terms

2. Over the phone by calling the Covered California Customer Call Center at (888) 975-1142

3. In  person at your County Human Services agency or via Certified Enrollment Counselors at community organizations

What are important deadlines I need to know?

If you did not enroll to have coverage starting January 1, 2014, you can still get covered. Open enrollment extends through March 31, 2014, so you can still get coverage starting in February, March, April or May. The ACA requires most people to enroll by March 31, 2014 or fax a tax penalty. Click here to see the chart for deadlines.

My organization or workplace is interested in a presentation about Covered California. Where do I find that?
Legal Services of Northern California-Health offers in-person outreaches about Covered California, the Affordable Care Act, and health consumer self-advocacy. If interested, call us at 1-888-354-4474  to set up a presentation.
Someone reached out to me saying that they are a Certified Enrollment Counselor. Is there a way I can verify their identity?
Yes! You can find the full list of Certified Enrollment Counselors online on the Covered California website.

If you are uninsured and seeking insurance, you can still apply today.  If you are low income, you might be eligible for free Medi-Cal.  As of January 1st, the Medi-Cal program expanded to cover millions of Californians who are low income.  Apply at your local county welfare office or through Covered California’s website.   If you make too much money to qualify for Medi-Cal, there’s still time to apply for insurance through Covered California. Covered California is enrolling Californians through March 31st.  You can apply online; through the Covered California Service Center (1-800-300-1506); or by contacting a Certified Enrollment Counselor in your area.

If you have trouble accessing services or were denied, you can always call Legal Services of Northern California at 1-888-354-4474 for free legal help.