LGB delaying health care even with insurance coverage: California study
It’s sad to hear that even with insurance coverage, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in California are delaying health care concerns because of fears or experience of discrimination.
A recent study by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Health Policy Research noted that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are more likely than straight people to delay seeking medical care.
This despite having the same or even higher rates of health insurance coverage.
Delaying health care: A California study
Researchers at UCLA used data taken from about 83,000 adults in California from the combined 2011 to 2014 California Health Interview Survey that questioned them on a number of health indicators.
One of the things they found out that was that gay and bisexual men were more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have health insurance.
On the other hand, lesbian and bisexual women had similar rates of health insurance coverage as compared to straight women.
However, in terms of using this coverage, twenty percent of gay men and 21 percent of bisexual men reported delaying seeking medical help in 2017 as compared to 13 percent of straight men.
Meanwhile, 18 percent of straight women said they delayed seeking health care while almost 30 percent of lesbians and bisexual women did the same.
According to the same survey, more than one million California adults or 4.5 percent of the state’s adult population identify as lesbian, gay, homosexual or bisexual.
Delaying health care: Reasons behind it
The UCLA researchers were not able to determine the reasons behind this disparity.
“Unfortunately we don’t have the data to answer (why) directly,” said Susan Babey, who is one of the authors of the report.
Babey, who is also co-director of the Chronic Disease Program at the Center, said: “Sexual minorities who have had a bad experience with a medical provider because of their sexual orientation may try to avoid repeating it.”
Amanda Wallner, director of the California LGBT Health and Human Services Network, concurred: “It’s something that we’ve actually known about for a while.”
“Other studies have shown similar findings and anecdotally we hear stories about this all the time,” she said, adding that LGBT adults are responding to previous experiences of discrimination or to a similar perception.
Meanwhile, Joelle Wolstein, a research scientist at the Center and the study’s lead author, said: “Our study shows bisexuals have among the greatest need for regular health care, but are the least likely to get it.”
“Even if they have a high-quality insurance plan through an employer, health equity is far from a reality for many LGBTQ patients,” Wolstein said.
LGBT response and consequences
Wallner listed issues of the community in seeking medical help, from doctors refusing to give certain medical treatment to questioning their lifestyle behaviors.
Likewise, she said that those from the community prefer to go to clinics that are LGBT-friendly, which may be far or not too many.
Delaying seeking health care is problematic for both LGBT patients and society, said Babey, as these could lead to more serious and difficult-to-treat health conditions.
In fact, the same UCLA noted that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults visit the hospital emergency department more than straight adults– with bisexuals experiencing this more often.
The study didn’t look into the situation of transgender adults due to a lack of survey data on the population. The California Health Interview Survey only began collecting transgender data in 2015-16
However, Babey said they will look into the issue in a future study.