By Sergey Grankin

This blog entry was a result of a community collaboration with Spokane AIDS Network.

Blaine-blankBlaine Stum. He’s the Legislative Aide to Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder, Chair of the Human Right Commission, and Chair of the Public Policy Committee for the Inland Northwest Business Alliance. Beyond all that, Blaine is an advocate for the LGBT community who recognizes the tangible value of health insurance.

“I think it’s important for everyone but especially within the gay community. Unfortunately we’re targeted with violence more often which means that you might end up in the hospital; and then we have a higher rate of transmission of HIV and other STD’s. If you don’t have insurance to get tested and get treated, the costs can be astounding. So it’s huge to have insurance.”

The LGBT community has higher risks of STI transmission and gay men and trans women have high rates of HIV infections. When dealing with prevention, treatment or even testing/diagnosis, the costs can be monumental. That’s where getting insured comes into play. “When you look at the cost of AIDS medication, getting the drug cocktails can put you down a couple thousand dollars. With new drugs on the market like PrEP, which are more on the prevention side, having insurance can be crucial to more people being able to use those drugs.”

In the past getting insurance was a spendy endeavour. Many folks couldn’t get insurance even if they wanted to. Now with policies like the Affordable Care Act, many people can afford insurance, helping them obtain life saving medication. “Far more people are insured. We had an uninsured rate in this country around 20% but now the latest number in Spokane was around 8%. So I think policies like the Affordable Care Act have been huge, Washington State especially has been great about rolling out their exchange. It’s gotten a lot easier to get insured. I remember shopping around for individual insurance in 2003, and the costs were ridiculous, around $500 a month and a deductable around $3000-$5000.”

As a public figure and supporter of LGBT rights, Blaine Stum advocates for insurance coverage. His involvement with city government gives him the platform to promote insurance for the community. Much like many of us, Blaine understands the importance of getting insured through first hand experience. “I had a recent incident where I ended up in the emergency room for three hours. Had I not had insurance, I would have had to pay about $6,000 out of pocket. With my insurance, I’m paying $300 out of pocket. Having insurance basically kept me from sliding into poverty, just because of medical bills.”

Insurance coverage is key when it comes to the LGBT community, especially HIV testing, treatment and prevention. With insurance, testing becomes rapidly available and affordable, treatment medication won’t cost you an arm and a leg and preventive methods are cost-efficient. With health-care acts like the ACA, getting insured is simple, so make it a priority when you think about your health.

Sergey Grankin is a co-host of the Pacific Northwest LGBT radio talk show OUTSpoken. He is a frequent contributor to the Seattle Lesbian and CCE Sports Network. Known for his sense of humor and candid opinions on social issues and politics, Sergey is a loud and proud gay Russian immigrant.