LGBTQ Individuals More Likely to Deny Medical Care

A study looking at healthcare access and overall health upon LGBTQ groups found significant differences in the needs of LGB individuals. LGB adults who may have medical coverage are still more likely to delay medical care than heterosexual people.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) created policy brief measuring differences in healthcare access, health behaviors, and health outcomes due to sexual orientation among California adults. The study combines data from the 2011 to the 2014 California Health Interview Survey. Data on transgender people were not included until 2015.

One in five gay and bisexual men delayed healthcare this past year, while a higher percentage of both lesbian and bisexual women postpone the needed medical care. Bisexual men and women were found to have the worst overall regular access to a doctor, along with high rates of unhealthy behavior.

The study’s lead author Joelle Wolstein said in a statement, “Our study shows bisexuals have among the greatest need for regular healthcare, but are the least likely to get it.” The research scientist continued, “Even if they have a high-quality insurance plan through an employer, health equity is far from a reality for many LGBTQ patients.”

According to co-author Susan Babey of the study, fear of being discriminated against by medical personnel is one reason LGBTQ adults skip seeing a doctor. “Sexual minorities who have had a bad experience with a medical provider because of their sexual orientation may try to avoid repeating it,” stated the co-director of the Chronic Disease Program at the center.

The Harvard Gazette found that nearly a sixth of LGBTQ adults experienced discrimination in any medical setting, while a fifth claimed avoidance of seeking medical care for fear of discrimination. Sean Cahill of the Fenway Institute, an advocacy group for LGBTQ healthcare, said he believes physicians and health center staff lack training in sexual and gender identity that’s intersectional with race and ethnicity.

“It’s really important to understand why the disparities exist and ensure healthcare is relevant and affirming to [LGBTQ people],” proclaimed Cahill in an interview.

Director of the California LGBT Health and Human Services Network, Amanda Wallner, suggested medical fields to affirm trust in LGBTQ patients. Wallner listed practices that could form trust between doctors and LGBTQ patients, like calling patients by their preferred names and pronouns, conducting training on LGBTQ awareness and cultural awareness, and adding posters in healthcare fields that show LGBTQ couples and families.

“I look forward to the day when we start to chip away at those disparities and people do feel comfortable going into their doctor,” Wallner said in a California Health Report article. “We need to break down the stigma because it’s killing people.”

More than 1,000,000 adults in California identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, according to the California Health Interview study, and this number continues to increase. Babey claimed that people risk a higher chance of needing emergency care to treat serious health conditions if they do not seek medical care early.