A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that LGBT people are twice as likely to be uninsured and even more likely to forgo and delay medical care, compared to straight people.
The reason? As medical news site MedicalXpress points out, there is a major dearth of health care professionals who understand the issues involved in treating LGBT patients.
"LGBT individuals who are between the ages of 18 and 44 and single are less likely than heterosexuals to have the money or insurance for care, and even partnered gays and lesbians are twice as likely to be uninsured," reports MedicalXpress. "The fear of stigma and homophobia can also keep LGBT people from seeking care. And many are afraid to disclose their sexual or gender identity to their physicians, which can also have an impact on the quality of care they receive."
In the study, researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, surveyed 138 U.S. academic medical practices in 2012, and of the 50 percent that responded, only 9 percent had procedures to help identify which of their physicians were LGBT-competent, 4 percent had policies in place to do this.
The result is that LGBT people are often forgoing medical care for fear of discrimination and lack of providers who are understanding of LGBT issues. This comes on the heels of news earlier this year that a Michigan doctor denied care to the 6-month-old child of two lesbian moms.
The researchers note, however, that over 80 percent of practices surveyed expressed an interest in doing more to address LGBT issues.
"There exist both need and interest for US academic faculty practices to develop procedures, policies, and programs that improve access to LGBT-competent physicians and to train physicians to become LGBT-competent," they conclude.