LGTBQ Adults Twice as Likely to Be Uninsured Compared to Straight Peers, Study Finds

In earlier recessions, the number of people without health insurance would explode. But this year, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, more Americans are staying covered.

“The health law’s expansion of Medicaid and its offer of subsidized health plans have provided a new safety net for those who have lost their jobs and their health insurance,” The New York Times reports.

But there are still significant chunks of the American population slipping through the cracks. Among them: LGBTQ adults. Sexual minorities are less likely to be employed or to have health insurance than their straight peers, according to a 2018 study that was published in BMJ Open, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The study also found that LGBTQ adults are more likely to report being in poorer health and having a lower quality of life. The researchers behind the U.S. study believe the differences are the result of discrimination.

“Previous research has shown that nearly half of all sexual minorities experience employment discrimination in their lifetime, which can lead to disparities in health insurance coverage, and ultimately to health-related quality of life,” Brittany Charlton, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at Harvard’s school of public health, told Reuters at the time of the article’s publication.

Charlton and her team found that overall, LGTBQ adults were about twice as likely to have been unemployed and uninsured over the previous year compared to straight peers. They were also more likely to report poorer health and quality of life. Nearly 40% said they lacked access to a routine physical health exam.

While the study was conducted before the pandemic, the results will have a significant bearing on the months ahead, as the country embarks on the largest vaccination campaign in its history. Those who can’t schedule a basic physical may also have a difficult time trying to receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Even more, Charlton believed reality could be worse than what her data show.

“Most of the study participants were white and their families had middle-to-high household incomes,” she said. “It is striking that these sexual orientation disparities are pervasive among participants who predominantly hold high social status. Given this high social status, we may have underestimated levels of unemployment, being uninsured, and having poor health-related quality of life.”

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