Non-profit Palmetto Project helps LGBT people get healthcare coverage 

Palmetto Pride Project

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) — better known as Obamacare — has been controversial on both sides of the political spectrum, but the nonprofit organization Palmetto Project wants South Carolinians to know that under the new healthcare system LGBT people will not be discriminated against based on gender identification or sexual orientation. "You will be covered under the ACA and you won't be charged more," says Shelli Quenga, Palmetto Project's director of programs. "Your premiums can't be higher. It's the same as anyone who is sitting next to me. It's all based on financially where you're at, your age, and where you live. It doesn't matter what your gender is, your sex orientation — those things are no longer a concern."

click to enlarge Shelli Quenga - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Shelli Quenga

Same-sex couples also cannot be discriminated against, even if the particular state they reside in does not recognize same-sex marriage as legal — as is the case in South Carolina. "If a partner and I get married in Massachusetts, it is still covered in South Carolina," says Becky Lawson, a certified insurance navigator.

Now couples of the same sex can get the same benefits as heterosexual couples. "In the marketplace, if you're looking for federal insurance as any other married couples as long as you file your taxes as a married couple, you can get the benefits. There's no discrimination. A same-gender couple could be looking for loopholes. You wouldn't be looking for all the pitfalls because you're being treated like any other couple," Quenga says.

click to enlarge Becky Lawson - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Becky Lawson

There are still some things the ACA doesn't cover — particularly for transgender people. Hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery are still not covered. Transgender people, those who identify as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth, can still receive medical coverage, but they have to pay out of pocket for their sex reassignment expenses, which can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $50,000. "Certainly the law is not perfect. It's the biggest social service change we've had in our country in a while. There's lots of room for improvement," Quenga says.

Palmetto Project provides certified application counselors like Lawson to help people find an insurance plan. "There are healthcare benefits out there, and we just need for you to talk to us about it," Lawson says.

The next enrollment period for healthcare coverage begins Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15, 2015. To learn more about Palmetto Project, call (888) 998-4646 or visit palmettoproject.org

Cover photo via Flickr user waelder11


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