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July is International Health Awareness Month (2 of 4)


This installment in our series on health awareness discusses healthcare access. Access to good-quality healthcare can be a significant challenge, particularly for many LGBTQ+ people. Unlike many countries with state-supported healthcare, the United States operates on a profit-first model and ranks at 22nd out of 78 in Quality of Life on the 2021 US News & World Reports’ Best Countries Report. Efforts such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have helped improve healthcare access—but affordable, quality health care remains inaccessible to millions of citizens. According to the 2020 Healthy People initiative (and many others), “LGBT individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. [ … ] LGBT health requires specific attention from health care and public health professionals to address a number of disparities, including:

  • LGBT youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide.

  • LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless.

  • Lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer.

  • Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other STDs, especially among communities of color.

  • Lesbians and bisexual females are more likely to be overweight or obese.

  • Transgender individuals have a high prevalence of HIV/STDs, victimization, mental health issues, and suicide and are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals.

  • Elderly LGBT individuals face additional barriers to health because of isolation and a lack of social services and culturally competent providers.

  • LGBT populations have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.”

The ACA includes provisions intended to help ameliorate at least some of the challenges faced by LBGTQ+ people. For example, the excellent “Get Ready to be Covered” document from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration points out that it is “prohibited to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in the State Marketplaces [ … and ] cannot deny your pre-existing conditions, including behavioral health conditions, HIV, or a transgender medical history.” If you don’t currently have health coverage, you can enroll in a Marketplace policy through August 15, 2021 at healthcare.gov. If you need help, Out2Enroll lists navigators and other resources to help you find the plan that meets your needs and enroll. You can also call 1-800-318-2956. You can also find resources, including a helpful provider directory, at GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality’s resources page. Have you faced and overcome—or been stymied by—health care access challenges? We’d love to hear your story.

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