Breaking Down Health Care Barriers for LGBT Community

Written By:Stacy Simon

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month is about more than the colorful parades that take place across the country every June. It's also about remembering the struggles of people who have fought for the equal rights of all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet members of the LGBT community face health disparities every day.

Studies have found that lesbians and bisexual women have higher rates of breast cancer than heterosexual women. They also get less routine health care than other women, including colorectal, breast, and cervical cancer screening. Gay and bisexual men also face a number of barriers to getting the routine health care and cancer screening tests they need.

Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Low rates of health insurance: Many health insurance policies still do not cover unmarried or domestic partners. Until the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, it was harder for many LGBT people to get quality health care. Many states now also offer family health insurance plans that may help unmarried partners get coverage in other ways, and options are also available under the Affordable Care Act for people without access to coverage through a domestic partner or employer.
  • Fear of discrimination: Many people do not tell their doctors about their sexual orientation, because they don’t want discrimination to affect the quality of health care they receive. This can make it harder to have a comfortable relationship with your provider. An LGBT community center or group may be able to refer you to LGBT-friendly health care providers.
  • Negative experiences with health care providers: Fear of having a negative experience with a health care provider can lead some people to delay or avoid medical care, especially routine care such as early detection tests. Missing routine cancer screenings can lead to the disease being diagnosed at a later stage, when it’s harder to treat. Today, there are many LGBT-friendly providers who can provide professional, competent care. Don’t give up – find the respectful care you deserve!

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