According to a local insurance executive, a three year old study warning that nearly one in four gay and lesbian adults lack health insurance has become even more serious a problem today, with the nationwide economic downturn. The 2007 survey of more than 2,700 American adults age 18 and over found that 22% of gay and lesbian respondents report having no health coverage, compared with around 12% of straights who were asked.
Jim Rakvica of Correct Coverage Insurance in Fort Lauderdale states that “Those numbers are more than two years old, and for most people the economy is worse. You can extrapolate that the uninsured’s numbers are quite a bit higher due to our high unemployment and poor economy,” he says.
Conducted by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications, 343 of those questioned identified themselves as gay or lesbian.
The survey also identified factors that influence LGBT purchasing of health coverage. Those factors include whether the insurance provider offers domestic partner benefits —including health insurance—to its own employees, or whether they provide health coverage for domestic partners to companies they offer policies to.
79% of LGBT adults say that seeing a print ad from a health insurer that directly addresses gay issues with LGBT-friendly images plays an important part in their decision to purchase health coverage.
“The problem of the uninsured has reached crisis proportions in this country,” added Peter Francel of Aetna Insurance. “Unfortunately, this survey shows that the LGBT community is today at greater risk.”
“One problem,” Rakvica offers, “is that many members of the gay and lesbian community are self-employed, or work for small businesses with less than 10 employees. Most health insurers would rather not insure small groups.”
Added Francel: “We must step up all efforts to serve the uninsured and take the lead in transforming our health care system for not only our LGBT members but all those who are not covered by health insurance today.”
The pro-LGBT practices of Aetna have earned the company a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index every year since 2002. Not every corporate member of Big Health is as forward-thinking.
“Most insurance companies don’t recognize the relationship between same-sex partners in the same way they do with straight couples and families,” Rakvica says.
“I’ve been fighting this issue for over 15 years,” says Rakvica. “In a lot of cases I have been able to work around or overcome some of these barriers for clients looking for quality life and health coverage.
He says that an insurance agent needs to be assertive for their clients, and must “try to find the company that best fits that client’s special needs.”