And even when LGBT people do visit health care providers, many report experiencing bias.
In one recent survey, more than 50 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents said they had experienced discrimination when seeking health care; in the transgender community, the number rises to around 70 percent, Vargas says.
“The connection between the discrimination that we face and our health care is readily apparent,” he says. “A lot of our community has negative experiences when it comes to health care, and that translates into people delaying to seek care at all, which then exacerbates the health [concerns] we see in our community.”
As physicians work to provide “patient-centered care,” that must include making their services accepting and welcoming to LGBT patients, and GLMA offers trainings to health care providers to help achieve that goal.
The association also produces Top 10 lists that are intended to help gay men, lesbians and transgender people understand the most common health concerns they may need to discuss with their doctors.
“Those are meant to be empowering for LGBT patients in terms of working with their health care providers and making sure they are aware of issues that may affect them as individuals and as part of a community,” Vargas says.
Even if patients don’t feel comfortable coming out to their doctors, they can bring up whatever particular issues from the lists fit with their experience.
“You can raise those without ever presenting the document,” Vargas says. “You don’t have to say, ‘I am a gay man and I want to talk about this.’”
New federal regulations require hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid to inform patients that they can specify who can visit — including a “same-sex domestic partner.”
The new regulations went into effect Jan. 18.
“The new policy is especially welcome in states like Georgia,” says Brian Basinger, president of the Stonewall Bar Association, a group for LGBT legal professionals.
“We have a large LGBT population, of which a signification portion lives, travels, or vacations in areas where pro-LGBT policies may not already be in place at the local level,” Basinger notes in a press release.
Basinger is scheduled to discuss the new hospital rules Feb. 10 at the American Bar Association meeting in Atlanta.