Transgender patients lack regular access to care, poll finds

Rainbow Earth
Many LGBTQ patients avoid doctors and healthcare organizations for fear of discrimination.

The healthcare system is failing many LGBTQ patients.

Some 31% of transgender Americans lack regular access to healthcare, according to a new poll (PDF) by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

It’s harder for transgender people to find healthcare coverage because it is harder for them to find jobs, according to an NPR report that detailed the poll findings. There’s also the fear of what might happen when they seek medical attention because of social stigma.

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In the NPR poll, 18% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people say they have avoided medical care even when in need, because of a concern they would be discriminated against.

Some transgender patients are finding low-cost health care at Planned Parenthood clinics, since the organization trains its staff to be sensitive to transgender people and many of its health centers offer them a wide range of services, including primary care, annual examinations and STD screenings, NPR reported.

Then there’s the fear some patients have of telling a doctor, particularly in rural communities, that they are gay, according to an additional NPR report. Pediatrician Kathryn Hall, who practices in rural Tulare County in California surveyed more than 500 area doctors a few years ago asking them about welcoming LTBTQ patients. Of the 120 doctors who responded, most said they would welcome patients and Hall said doctors can find ways to get out that message out, including putting a little rainbow flag on the door or taking out an ad in a local magazine.

"Many of the physicians that I know are LGBT-friendly, but patients don't know that and are very afraid that they're being judged," Hall told NPR.

It’s not just the healthcare system where transgender people face discrimination. A second federal judge last week blocked President Donald Trump’s proposed transgender military ban. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis of Maryland halted the proposed ban by the White House, issuing a 53-page order in which he wrote that the administration had offered no justification for the policy change, which reversed the Obama administration’s decision to let transgender troops serve openly, according to The Washington Post.