Nearly one in four gay and lesbian Americans have no health insurance, according to a recent national survey conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Witeck-Combs. The study also revealed that gays and lesbians are almost twice as likely to have no health insurance coverage as their heterosexual counterparts.
The survey, which ran from April 7 to 15, 2008, tracked 2,710 adults, of whom 343 self-identified as gay or lesbian. Of these, 22 percent of the gay and lesbian respondents reported having no health insurance, compared to only 12 percent of heterosexual adults in the survey.
Harris's study did not ask participants to explain why they lacked health insurance, although a little background reading reveals a likely culprit: inability to get the spousal coverage frequently offered to married couples. Another possible cause? Fear. Many gays and lesbians don't ask for domestic partner benefits even when they're offered, for fear of outing themselves at the workplace. This may help explain why 85 percent of the Harris survey's gay and lesbian respondents said that it was important to them that health insurance companies provide domestic partner health coverage.
Lack of universal healthcare coverage in the United States is one of the most hotly debated issues in the upcoming presidential elections. A recent ABC News/Washington Post survey found that 62 percent prefer a universal health insurance program over the current employer-based system, compared to 32 percent who don't.
Not surprisingly, the Harris survey also found that gays and lesbians tend to respond to healthcare products marketed specifically at gays and lesbians. Seventy-nine percent of gay and lesbians respondents reported that seeing a print advertisement for a health insurance product that uses images of gay and lesbian people would be an important factor in their decision-making process when they considered a company’s health insurance products. Assuming factors such as price, quality, and convenience were not considerations, 78 percent of gay and lesbian respondents said they would be likely to consider an insurance provider or plan that was marketed specifically to the GLBT community.