LGBT People of Color Need More Than Health Insurance

Collecting better data would establish the scope of their problems.

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The health care debate is still raging across the country, and ensuring that it moves forward so that all Americans have access to affordable and high-quality health insurance is a critical first step. But acquiring and keeping health insurance coverage is only half the battle for millions of Americans.

New research from the Center for American Progress, for example, shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have health care needs and challenges that are starkly different from the rest of the population. The research also shows that racial and ethnic minorities who are lesbian, gay or bisexual face some of the greatest health care challenges in our country.

For example, lesbian and bisexual black women are the least likely to have had a mammogram in the past two years. Only 35 percent of these women have had mammograms recently, compared to nearly 70 percent of heterosexual African-American, Asian or Pacific Islander, or white women. One out of every five lesbian/gay/bisexual African-American adults has diabetes. Straight African-American and straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual Asian or Pacific Islander, Latino, and white adults are much less likely to have diabetes—fewer than 8 percent of these populations have been diagnosed with the disease.

Mental health needs are also a concern. For example, lesbian/gay/bisexual Asian or Pacific Islander adults are more likely than other groups to report experiencing psychological distress. Lesbian/gay/bisexual Latinos are similarly much more likely than all other racial or ethnic groups—gay or straight—to report problems with alcohol abuse and addiction.

Data on the general transgender population is notoriously sparse and anecdotal—information on transgender racial and ethnic minorities is even more so. But based on what we do know, people in this population face the largest obstacles to finding and affording high-quality and highly competent health care.

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