LGBT Patients Find Little Patience in Healthcare

LGBT friendly health care remains out of reach for most

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) Americans are gaining more recognition and acceptance in the public eye. Yet many still have limited access to health care services.

A recent report named the most LGBT-friendly hospitals and health care facilities in the country. Though the report showed a significant rise in LGBT-friendly health care facilities from past years, only a small percentage of hospitals and health care facilities participated in the surveying.

There are more than 5,700 hospitals in the U.S. and only 407 health care facilities participated in the survey, with eighteen states not participating in the survey.

"Talk to your doctor about pro-LGBT health services."

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) provides a report each year, called the Healthcare Equality Index. The report surveys and scores hospitals and healthcare facilities on how much consideration and special measures they provide to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients, visitors and employees.

This year the numbers were higher than ever, revealed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She released a statement on June 19 -- the same day as the report was released to the public -- that there had been a forty percent increase in the number of facilities volunteering to participate, as well as a 162 percent increase in the number of facilities that the HRC has dubbed "leaders".

To be considered a leader hospitals and facilities must "meet practices and policies they consider to be essential for equitable and inclusive LGBT care.”

However, those numbers become less impressive when compared to the big picture.

While Sebelius publicly recognized those facilities that did participate, she is quick to point out that there is much more to be done. Last year, she promised to incorporate the LGBT community into the federal health care collection data for the first time.

Sebelius continues to remind the public that the LGBT community still faces numerous obstacles in the health care system, “Today LGBT Americans face numerous barriers to health from providers who just don’t understand their unique health needs, to difficulty getting health insurance because they can’t get coverage through a partner or a spouse. And unfortunately way too many LGBT individuals face discrimination and bigotry in the health care system.”

Sebelius' statement is backed by data from various organizations other than the HRC.

Lambda Legal -- a civil rights group focused on LGBT legal issues -- conducted a health care survey in 2010 that showed that 73 percent of transgender respondents and 29 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents reported that "they believed they would be treated differently by medical personnel because of their LGBT status.”

The Healthcare Equality Index this year asked participating facilities how and if they gave patients the opportunity to self-identify as LGBT. More than 57 percent reported that they both allowed and recognized "non-state recognized partnerships". Additionally, the survey found that nine percent of the participants offer trans-inclusive plans -- something that is very atypical in the U.S.

Other organizations are officially supporting LGBT patients as well. Both The Joint Commission -- a health care accreditation group -- and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officially ruled that they prohibit any discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This includes visitation and benefit rights. And luckily their actions have had a snowball effect, “HHS standards and The Joint Commission’s regulations [were among] several factors that contributed to the increase of responding facilities," said Paul Guequierre -- deputy press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign.

The HRC notes that general awareness of LGBT issues -- both in the public and health sectors -- influence more and more organizations to participate in the HEI and issue LGBT friendly policies.

Shane Snowdon, director of health and aging programs at HRC, says the next big step for the index is to to include aging and older LGBT communities. Ultimately there is still much to do for the LGBT community, but for the first time recognition is taking hold in real and important ways. Snowdon point out, “This is the first ‘out’ generation and there is a tremendous concern for their health."

This article was posted on June 19 on the Kaiser Health News website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 10, 2012
Last Updated:
July 11, 2012