Michael Anderson-Nathe
Chief Equity and Engagement Officer
Health Share of Oregon

Accessing gender-affirming care is lifesaving for transgender and gender-diverse people and yet, according to the 2015 US Trans Survey, a third of transgender Oregonians report being denied coverage for care related to gender transition or being denied coverage for routine care because they were transgender.

This is unacceptable. As the state’s largest coordinated care organization (CCO) serving Oregon Health Plan (OHP) members in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, Health Share of Oregon is committed to improving the experiences of transgender and other gender-diverse communities within our state’s health care system. Thanks to Oregon voters’ resounding approval of Measure 101 last week, we’ll be able to continue pursuing thoughtful innovations and community-based solutions that serve our diverse communities and make OHP more effective in promoting a healthier future.

For me, this work is very personal. As a queer man of color, I have felt the sting of discrimination from health care providers. No one should be denied care because of who they are or who they love.

My role as Health Share’s Chief Equity and Engagement Officer is to ensure high-quality, compassionate health care for communities that have historically been neglected or overlooked by our health system. It’s a job I feel passionately about—everyone deserves to be cared for in a way that empowers them.  We have a long way to go, but together we can transform the way health care serves our communities.

It also means seeing this moment as an opportunity to make sure our provider network is meeting our community’s needs and to act even more deliberately and thoughtfully to advance equity for our members and all Oregonians. Now, with the closing of FamilyCare Health, the state’s second-largest CCO, our top priority at Health Share is to make the transition as smooth as possible for the more than 100,000 OHP members joining Health Share on February 1. That means making sure these members continue to receive the care they rely on and receive support from us and our health plan and provider partners.

For the LGBTQ+ community, we are working to combat disparities by improving care and building equity into our health system. LGBTQ+ communities face complex disparities within the health care system and within society. We are committed to reversing these harmful trends.

Here are some of the ways we are working to achieve meaningful change:

  • Ensuring specialized care for transgender and gender-diverse communities: Our provider network includes doctors and caregivers who specialize in gender-affirming care, from the OHSU Transgender Health Program to Kaiser’s Gender Pathways Clinic to Legacy’s T-Clinic. Health Share members can bypass their primary care provider and work directly with specialists to access hormones, testosterone, mental health services, gender-confirming surgeries, and more. We’re working to expand our network of affirming providers, too.
  • Helping providers put equity first: From convening provider-focused equity work groups to working with dental providers to make their patient forms are gender-affirming and equitable, we are spurring and supporting equity in health care.
  • Training providers and staff: In partnership with leaders in the transgender community, we hosted a training for about 100 physical and behavioral health providers on providing gender-affirming care. In February, we will host a training for Health Share staff on becoming better allies to the transgender and gender-diverse communities.
  • Understanding the intersection between identity and health care: Through our Photovoice project, we invited members to share how they experience intersecting identities within the health care system. Participants told their health care stories using photography, and the photographs were displayed publicly and developed into a book. We are using these stories to understand and address the ways in which some communities are overlooked, including incorporating participants’ voices into our 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment.
  • Health by communities, for communities: Health Share recently invested $3.3 million to build necessary infrastructure to grow the community health worker (CHW) workforce and increase access to culturally specific and community-based CHWs for Oregon Health Plan members statewide. Part of this investment is to look at how CHWs can better serve LGBTQ+ communities.

We believe that health equity is achievable and requires deliberate action on our part. But we also recognize that there is a lot of work to do, and the health system has a long way to go. We look forward to working with our members and local communities on this journey.

Joining Health Share from FamilyCare? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Your coverage will remain the same.
  • You’ll have more network options, including health plans with Providence, Kaiser Permanente, CareOregon and Tuality.
  • You can keep appointments you’ve already scheduled—we’re honoring prior-authorizations and out-of-network primary care appointments for up to 90 days for physical health and up to 180 days for mental health.
  • We’re here to help—visit our website at healthshareoregon.org/newmembers or call our New Member Welcome Line at 1-833-278-4215.

Michael Anderson-Nathe has led Health Share’s equity and engagement team since 2014. Previously, he worked at the Cascade AIDS Project and was part of the effort to pass the gender-confirming surgery benefit for Medicaid members in Oregon. His pronouns are he/him/his.