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Health Insurance Crises

Too many go without including a higher percentage of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender adults

Dateline: April 29, 2005

The Mautner Project, the National Lesbian Health Organization, today joined organizations across the country to support Cover the Uninsured Week, May 1-8. Cover the Uninsured Week draws attention to the rising number of uninsured Americans who find themselves and their families at risk. 

According to a 2002 survey released jointly by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive(r) only 70% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults said they had health insurance coverage, compared to 86% of non-gay adults. The gap in insurance for LGBT employees exist because most employers in the U.S. do not offer health insurance for LGBT partners (domestic partner benefits). Even when employers offer domestic partner benefits, many LGBT employees do not apply for them because revealing their sexual orientation puts them at risk of anti-gay bias. Another potential cause for the gap may be because many LGBT people are un- or underemployed because of discrimination in the workplace. "In every survey of Americans of employment age, the number one access point for health insurance is through employee benefits for workers employed full-time. For LGBT Americans, obtaining that benefit is often problematic," said Kathleen DeBold, Executive Director of the Mautner Project. "Discrimination against LGBT Americans only increases the already horrific numbers of the uninsured. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women are less likely than men to be eligible for and participate in their employer's health plans, which DeBold says "puts lesbians at extra risk for being or becoming uninsured. Women are more likely than men to be covered as a dependant on a spouse's health insurance policy. Since the number of jurisdictions recognizing domestic partnerships, civil unions or same-sex marriages is minuscule, the majority of lesbians do not have this option. The resultant lack of health coverage among lesbians often leads to a lack of preventative care, to delayed or late diagnoses, and even death." 

DeBold said her organization supports programs that aim to insure more Americans, "As the only national health organization dedicated to the wellbeing of lesbians, the Mautner project understands first hand the problems that exist under the current system of health benefits. Our organization envisions a healthcare system guided by social justice and responsive to the needs of all people regardless of sexual orientation or any other divisive and discriminatory factors." 

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 million working adults do not have coverage and between one-forth and one-half of all uninsured adults were unable to see a doctor when needed in the past year because of cost. In addition, a May 2002 report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured revealed that the uninsured receive less preventive care, are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and tend to receive less therapeutic care once diagnosed. 

Cover the Uninsured estimates that more than 750 events supporting the Week will take place around the country. Interested individuals and organizations are encouraged to visit www.covertheunisuredweek.org for details on ways they can get involved. 



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