A new Gallup Poll shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Americans are more likely to lack health insurance compared to non-LGBT Americans — even though the number of uninsured people in the U.S. has dropped since the Affordable Care Act was passed.
“While the percentage of LGBT adults without health insurance has decreased significantly since the Affordable Care Act’s provisions requiring Americans to have health insurance took effect at the beginning of 2014, they are still more likely to be uninsured than their non-LGBT counterparts,” Gallup writes. The Obama administration targeted the LGBT community — among others — in particular for open enrollment. As former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced in 2013, Obamacare prevents health insurance companies from charging anyone a higher premium just because of their sexual orientation — and also makes it illegal for insurance companies offering coverage through the Marketplace to discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Despite these changes, LGBT adults are still less likely to have health care — and it’s possibly because LGBT Americans aren't always aware of their options, Sebelius noted. They are also more likely to report a lack of funds to afford health care, according to Gallup. Twenty-five percent of LGBT adults reported that they didn’t have enough money for health care needs at least once in the past year, while only 17 percent of non-LGBT Americans reported the same problem. And the numbers are worse for LGBT women in particular, who are less likely to have a personal doctor. Twenty-nine percent of LGBT women lacked a doctor, compared to 16 percent of non-LGBT women.
But it’s important for those in the LGBT community to understand their options in the Affordable Care Act. Sexual and gender minorities, after all, “experience worse physical and mental health outcomes and face unique health challenges compared to their heterosexual counterparts,” Jennifer Kates and Usha Ranji write on the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “These include a higher prevalence of HIV, mental illness, substance use, smoking, and other health conditions.” HIV/AIDS, in particular, is far more prevalent among gay and bisexual men — with that group accounting for two-thirds of new HIV infections.
The statistics of the Gallup poll are in line with those that came out in a 2013 National Health Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gallup's "data suggest that LGBT adults experience hurdles in accessing health insurance and resources,” the press release states.
More routine inclusion of these data on demographic, economic, and health-related surveys would improve the ability of researchers to not only document whether LGBT Americans experience negative health and well-being disparities, but why that might be the case. Understanding the "why" is crucial information to assist policymakers and health advocates in the development of policies and programs designed to reduce health and well-being disparities associated with LGBT status.