(BPT) - June is PRIDE Month. It’s a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, reflect on how far society has come and look to the future on work to be done. PRIDE, which stands for "Personal Rights in Defense and Education," is celebrated with parades, special events and commemorations of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Stonewall is widely considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement.
Despite the progress of the last 50 years, there’s more work to do, especially in the field of healthcare. Many LGBTQIA+ community members face barriers for their care in mental or physical health. For example, a survey conducted in 2020 by the Center for American Progress found that 15% of LGBTQ respondents reported postponing or avoiding medical appointments because of a provider’s reputation for disrespect or discrimination.
“The LGBTQIA+ community has long been underserved and discriminated against. That is unacceptable, especially in healthcare where everyone deserves to be treated with respect regardless of how they identify,” said Dr. Pooja Mittal, Chief Health Equity Officer, Health Net. “We strive to enhance our ecosystem of support, from our customer service team to working with providers, to training that includes and elaborates on how to best address the needs of the LGTBQIA+ community.”
Barriers to Accessing Healthcare
One of the many problems the LGBTQIA+ community experiences is health providers having a lack of understanding and awareness of their needs as patients. This makes it difficult for the patient to feel comfortable. It’s also a challenge for healthcare providers to manage the best possible care for their patients. Even providers who are LGBTQIA+ friendly may struggle with knowledge and experience.
Another barrier that affects this population is when their providers don’t understand or aren’t able to advocate for services they need. Even getting the right insurance coverage for treatments, making the right referrals and prescription privileges are a challenge. This can lead to higher healthcare costs if patients are forced to see multiple providers or pay out-of-pocket for care that can and should be covered by insurance.
Barriers such as these can lead to poorer health outcomes for the LGBTQIA+ community, such as depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, suicide, eating disorders, and alcohol and substance abuse.
Improving Health Disparities
Look around — your friends, your family, your coworkers. Chances are you know someone who identifies as LGBTQIA+. There are many ways to be supportive. This is especially true for healthcare leaders who can improve conditions for the LGBTQIA+ population. Health Net, which has been serving California’s most vulnerable populations for more than 40 years, has implemented a variety of policies to support their LGBTQIA+ members, including:
- Increased awareness and understanding of the needs of LGBTQIA+ patients by providers
- Modifications to the company’s customer service organization to collect SOGI (sexual orientation or gender identity) information on an opt-in basis, which can help identify health care disparities
- Gender diversity and cultural competency training for providers
- Gender neutral language training for company staff
- Providing grants and sponsorships to community-based organizations that support outreach, offer resources, and assist with behavioral health services for the LGBTQIA+ population
PRIDE is an important time to remember that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, no matter who they are or who they love. Everyone has a role to play in making sure that people can live a healthy life, free from discrimination and prejudice.