LGBTQ Americans, and especially transgender and queer people of color, face health disparities compared to the rest of the population, due to continuing disparities in access to and utilization of care. We must defend the progress we have made in reducing these disparities.
LGBTQ Americans are more likely than their non-queer counterparts to experience difficulty accessing health care. Individuals in same-sex relationships are significantly less likely than others to have health insurance, are more likely to report unmet health needs, and, for women, are less likely to have had a recent mammogram or Pap smear. Studies have shown that LGBTQ people also have markedly higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped to reduce many of these disparities since its enactment in 2010. This has been achieved through a variety of provisions critical to LGBTQ healthcare consumers:
- Nondiscrimination protections: Public and private health insurers are now prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status.
- Insurance market reforms: ACA phased out lifetime limits on coverage that let insurers sentence to death those policyholders they deem to costly to insure, ended preexisting condition exclusions, and banned insurance companies from revoking your coverage when you get sick. These protections are especially important for transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS.
- Prevention and wellness: Certain preventive services particularly important to LGBTQ people are now covered by insurance as Essential Health Benefits, including HIV testing, depression screening, and tobacco use screening.
- New coverage options: Subsidies have allowed millions of working-class people, including LGBTQ people, to afford to buy health insurance for the first time.
- Data collection: The ACA authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to expand the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data on national health surveys that help us better understand LGBTQ health and prioritize spending and research priorities.
Now is not the time to revoke affordable preventive coverage and deny access to lifesaving care for diseases that heavily impact the LGBTQ community, like HIV/AIDS.