Health Care Blog
- Posted byon October 27, 2014 at 9:35 AM EST
Andrew Cray is being honored posthumously as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.
Andrew Cray dedicated his life to making sure others could live their own.
Every day, Andrew fought tirelessly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, Americans to be treated with dignity and fairness. His work touched so many lives in so many ways, from working to secure protections for LGBT homeless youth to collaborating with the Obama Administration to implement the Supreme Court’s marriage equality rulings. At the center of his work, however, was his belief that the foundation of equality rests on the ability of all Americans to access comprehensive, affordable, and inclusive health care.
Andrew was just 28 years old when cancer tragically took his life this past August, but his passion for equity in and access to health insurance existed long before his diagnosis. As a transgender man, Andrew knew the challenges and the needs of the LGBT community personally and was all too familiar with the common occurrence of transgender people being denied insurance simply because of their gender identity, as well as with the startling statistics. According to a recent Center for American Progress report, one in three LGBT people with incomes at or below 4 times the federal poverty line lacked insurance, and 72% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people reported experiencing discrimination when attempting to find coverage through their employer for a same-sex partner. The eternal optimist that he was, Andrew believed that, with the right reforms and the improvements, those numbers could change.
Like many LGBT Americans, Andrew saw the Affordable Care Act as a vehicle for change and an opportunity to open up life-saving medical care to a community too often systemically and financially excluded. After passage, he worked with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to end discrimination against LGBT people by health insurance companies. He collaborated with the federal government and state governments to ensure accurate data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, which will serve as the foundation of future LGBT health advocacy. Andrew also worked with various partners to ensure that many of the new insurance options were inclusive of same-sex couples and transgender Americans.
As important as these reforms are, he also knew that, for the law to work, people needed to be educated and enrolled, which is why he, along with colleagues at the Center for American Progress, Sellers Dorsey, and the Federal Agencies Project, co-founded Out2Enroll. Over the last year, Out2Enroll has helped educate and connect countless LGBT Americans with their new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act.
All of this work took on a new meaning for Andrew when, in September 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout his treatment, he continued his legal advocacy and outreach work but also decided to utilize his personal story to convince young Americans, including young LGBT Americans, to enroll in health insurance. In an op-ed in The Advocate, Andrew wrote, “Our LGBT community is resilient and strong, and particularly for those of us who are young and have our entire lives in front of us, it may feel like we are invincible. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not.”
Several months later, this past July, Andrew found out that his cancer had returned and that it was terminal. As his partner, and soon to be wife, I sat with Andrew as we discussed what he wanted to do with the time he had left. He said he wanted to continue his life’s work: fighting to ensure that all Americans, including LGBT Americans, can access life-saving medical care.
One month later, Andrew passed away far too quickly and far too young, but the benefits of his work live on. As he wrote in The Advocate last March, “Cancer has taken a lot from me physically and emotionally. But it hasn’t taken away my voice…I want to make sure other young LGBT people understand why getting covered is so important. I hope that my community will listen when I say — please, take care of yourselves. Be out, be healthy, and get covered."
Sarah McBride is the Special Assistant for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress and authored this blog post on behalf of Andrew Cray. Andrew Cray was a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. He was her husband and colleague.
- Posted byon October 27, 2014 at 9:35 AM EST
Niiobli Armah IV is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.
Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act, the NAACP has remained committed to ensuring that communities of color understand the benefits provided by the ACA and the importance of its implementation. The NAACP began by forging a number of partnerships with organizations across the nation to guarantee that communities of color remain a priority demographic for the implementation of the ACA. The NAACP Board of Directors passed a resolution identifying health coverage as a critical civil rights issue and mandating that all 38 state conferences in the organization facilitate workshops around the ACA at their fall 2013 conventions. We have focused on making sure communities of color are aware of their options under the ACA and have opportunities to participate in Open Enrollment activities.
I have found that ACA outreach is most successful when we focus not on health care but rather on upward mobility and quality of life. At its essence, health care affords millions of Americans the opportunity to go to work daily and provide for their families. Health insurance is a safety net that is often taken for granted. In designing our outreach strategy, I knew that we had to build a narrative that resonates with our communities.
The issue of health disparities naturally rose to the surface. People of color are diagnosed later than others, and they often die early from preventable diseases. Getting other organizations to understand the uniqueness of engaging communities of color has been a high priority for our outreach efforts. Organizations have struggled with what they define as “hard to reach communities,” but I believe there is no such thing as a community impossible to reach. After participating in many meetings with organizations thinking through community engagement, I have come to understand that the traditional approach needs adjusting. Singular interventions and initiatives focused on one particular issue are less successful than those that are more comprehensive and view an issue in its totality. Neither advocacy groups nor the communities they serve have the option of choosing what issues will take priority. For example, the same communities experiencing poor health outcomes are simultaneously dealing with issues of unemployment, education, violence, and mental health.
The second Open Enrollment Period begins on November 15, and we charge ourselves and other community organizations to find innovative ways to bring the important message of health care to the constituents they serve. No longer can we operate within silos by choosing what issue areas communities should prioritize. Instead, we must find the intersection of multiple issues so that we can address community problems holistically. To appropriately address health equity, more work must be done at the interaction of multiple issues.
Niiobli Armah IV is the Director of Health Programs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
- Posted byon October 27, 2014 at 9:35 AM EST
Vanessa Abernathy is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.
Each generation has contributed to the social, political, and economic change that has made America great. I have been privileged to witness one of the greatest periods of change in American history, as well as to make a contribution to it by supporting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I am honored to be nominated as a White House Champion of Change and would like to thank Get Covered America for the opportunity to serve my country.
The objective of the Affordable Care Act is to provide everyone with access to affordable health insurance. We are achieving this goal through positive and peaceful change. ACA was enacted after a nationwide discussion about what health insurance should look like. There were heated town meetings in communities across the nation. We witnessed negotiations and opinions from the medical industry, unions, and elected officials. We saw our democracy in action with the passage of ACA and are still experiencing peaceful and positive change as challenges to the law are argued in the judicial system.
The national movement to ensure affordable health insurance for all Americans has been a life-changing experience for me. I have joined thousands of volunteers throughout the country going door-to-door and church-to-church, asking my neighbors if they know about ACA and if they need health insurance. That personal contact reminded me of so many historic campaigns that required volunteers to spread the word and call Americans to action. It has been a humbling experience for me to join thousands of volunteers all over the country to help our fellow Americans understand how the ACA Marketplace works, that financial assistance is available, and that there are people certified by the federal government to help them navigate the process.
I moved to Fairmont, North Carolina, in May 2013 and started my volunteer work with Get Covered America the following August. I spoke to churches and media outlets. I distributed flyers and talked to customers in small businesses, including nail salons, restaurants, professional service firms, and beauty shops. I felt a particular sense of pride and fulfillment when I visited Spanish-speaking businesses and offered flyers written in Spanish about ACA and local enrollment events because I knew that we were doing our best to reach out to all Americans.
I’ve worked in six counties in southeast North Carolina. I’ve traveled hundreds of miles spreading the word about the Affordable Care Act and the importance of health insurance and helping to organize enrollment events. But I haven’t been alone in this movement. Pastors and community leaders have opened doors to me. Friends and family have continually reaffirmed my work. And Navigators and certified application counselors have been partners in supporting insurance enrollment under ACA.
Our work is not over. The second open enrollment period for insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins on November 15, 2014. Mahatma Gandhi is paraphrased as saying, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” We all can impact the future of our country through volunteering and advocating for positive change.
Vanessa Abernathy works on Affordable Care Act outreach in North Carolina.
- Posted byon October 15, 2014 at 7:21 PM EST
The painful reality is that whether it’s our mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters or friends, breast cancer will touch the vast majority of our lives in some way, and it is up to each of us to make sure that we, and our loved ones, remain vigilant about scheduling regular breast exams. Early detection can help save lives, which is why President Obama ensured that the Affordable Care Act provides preventive care for women without a co-pays, and why the White House is making a point again this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to elevate this issue.
Today, Dr. Jill Biden hosted a conference call with women from around the country on how the Affordable Care Act is helping to combat breast cancer. And tonight, in keeping with an annual tradition to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the North Portico of the White House, as well as the Vice President’s residence at the Naval Observatory, are lit pink to honor those battling the disease, those we’ve lost, their families, and the survivors who are often the first to remind us that survival is not only possible, but highly probable for most women when the disease is detected early and addressed with proper care. Every woman is different, so it’s important to speak with your health care provider about the breast cancer screening schedule and tools that are most appropriate.
- Posted byon October 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM EST
In March 2012, the Obama Administration announced the commitment of $200 million by six Federal agencies as part of the Big Data Research and Development Initiative. Earlier this year, the Administration released a report entitled Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. This report outlines steps the Administration is taking to promote the benefits of Big Data while preserving values such as privacy, fairness, and self-determination.
To catalyze new biomedical Big Data research, the Obama Administration and the National Institutes of Health launched the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative in April 2013. Today, we are pleased to announce that the NIH has awarded a total of $32 million in new grants.
- Posted byon October 9, 2014 at 11:24 AM EST
Today, the Council on Economic Advisers released a new report that looks at the so-called "Millennial" generation. And while you might think that this group of Americans -- mostly in their mid-20s -- is all about smartphones and mason jars, you'd be wrong.
The report comes ahead of President Obama's visit with Los Angeles entrepreneurs, technologists, and creatives -- and it takes a close look at the trends and circumstances that have shaped Millennials. It finds a generation shaped by transformation, that came into its own in the midst of the financial crisis, but is also more diverse and educated than any other generation.
Here are some of the most interesting facts from the report:
- Millennials are now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S.
- They're shaped by technology, value creativity, and are innovative (see, founders of Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr).
- More Millennials are going to college, especially women. But when you couple that with rising tuition, they're also left with an ever-increasing share of the student loan debt burden.
- Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they are much more likely to have health insurance without being job-locked.
- Millennials are moving into urban areas and they're paying rent. They're less likely to own a home during their 20s than previous generations.
So even as Millennials face new challenges, they have enormous opportunity. And President Obama is taking steps to ensure their success -- something he'll talk about more this afternoon in Los Angeles.