Neill Gaither, standing, third from right, with Trans Pride Initiative in Dallas/Fort Worth was among the LGBT advocates invited to the White House to discuss the LGBT community’s barriers and successes under the Affordable Care Act with federal policymakers on April 10. (Courtesy photo)


JAMES RUSSELL  |  Staff Writer

Trans Pride Initiative’s Nell Gaither joined a select group of other LGBT advocates from around the country to discuss the LGBT community’s barriers and successes under the Affordable Care Act with federal policymakers on April 10 in Washington, D.C.

Organized by Out2Enroll, which connects LGBT people with new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, navigators and advocates shared their experiences under the ACA with both Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy and Doug Brooks, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy.

While the majority of attendees were federal or state navigators, many intersected in their roles as trained providers who answer questions and help people enroll for health insurance under the ACA.

During their meeting with Murphy, Gaither shared two dozen statements gathered from healthcare providers and consumers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as well as her own experiences with health insurance.

Gaither and others also discussed the challenges and efforts facing LGBT healthcare advocates and navigators.

Before the ACA was in place, Gaither told the surgeon general she was denied Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas insurance because she is trans. While the ACA eliminated the coverage denial because of pre-existing conditions, insurers still use  non-ACA plans to deny coverage to trans persons.

Those attending also all agreed that many people had a hard time understanding the basics of health insurance.

“So many people are new to insurance in general we suggested further education, like “insurance 101,” Gaither said.

During the meeting with Brooks, Gaither said she and other participants discussed grassroots efforts to educate and enroll people in insurance. The Obama administration’s chief technology officer, Megan Smith, later joined them.

Participants discussed problems with the profiles at Currently, profiles may be set up under one name in applications for coverage and later updated to reflect the legal name and gender markers.

But there is no way to change the name in the profile, Gaither said. And without the profile change, a transgender person may be outed.

The inability to change a profile also impacts survivors of sexual assault as well.

Overall, attendees left the convening feeling positive.

“It surprisingly didn’t feel like a public relations effort,” Gaither said. “All of us felt they were genuinely interested.”

But most of all, Gaither said, she was surprised she was even asked to attend. “I got the call and asked ‘Why me? I don’t see myself like that,” she said.
For more information on the Affordable Care Act and transgender issues, visit and

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 17, 2015.