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Commissioner Lara takes action to expand culturally competent health care access to LGBTQ+ Californians

News: 2021 Press Release

For Release: June 30, 2021
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Commissioner Lara takes action to expand culturally competent health care access to LGBTQ+ Californians

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — As California’s Pride Month comes to a close, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced new steps to help increase LGBTQ+ Californians’ access to culturally competent health care after years of neglect by the federal government. He has directed health insurance companies to provide data about whether their LGBTQ+ policyholders can find doctors and other medical providers that are culturally competent to provide appropriate care, which is often a major obstacle for LGBTQ+ individuals to seeking care and feeling accepted in medical settings.

As the first openly LGBTQ+ person to be elected to statewide office in California, Commissioner Lara said he will continue to protect and expand health care access for California’s LGBTQ+ residents and youth, along with other groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“California is coming back strong after the pandemic and years of relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ Californians by the federal government under the previous administration,” said Commissioner Lara. “Insurance companies must continue to do their part to increase access to medical providers trained to treat LGBTQ+ patients. Just like finding a doctor who speaks your language, having a doctor who can deliver culturally appropriate care to our LGBTQ+ adults and young people can make all the difference in whether they seek treatment or delay needed care.” 

Recent reports show that lack of culturally competent care continues to be a major problem for LGBTQ+ patients in accessing the care they need.

According to The Center for American Progress, 15 percent of LGBTQ Americans report postponing or avoiding medical treatment due to discrimination, including nearly 3 in 10 transgender individuals. Also, transgender individuals faced unique obstacles to accessing health care, including 1 in 3 who had to teach their doctor about transgender individuals in order to receive appropriate care.

“LGBTQ people have particular health needs that can only be treated successfully by someone who is an expert in caring for this population,” said Dr. Ward Carpenter, Co-Director of Health Services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “Even in a progressive state like California, patients tell us daily about terrible experiences they have had with healthcare providers who lack basic competence in addressing their concerns and medical needs -- a knowledge gap that is especially glaring for the transgender community. Collecting data in this critical area is the first important step in holding insurance companies accountable to fully serve the health needs of ALL their members, without discrimination, and we commend Commissioner Lara for spearheading this effort.”

Commissioner Lara’s action in seeking health insurance company data will help him identify gaps and create standards in order to make sure insurance companies’ health networks have adequate coverage of culturally competent providers so that LGBTQ+ consumers can easily access the appropriate care they need and barriers to care are eliminated.

“We know that LGBTQ+ people face untenable rates of discrimination, harassment and stigma when seeking the healthcare we need,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “Today's action by Insurance Commissioner Lara will mean that LGBTQ+ people — whether we're seeking gender-affirming care, mental health services or any other care — will soon be able to find a provider who fully understands the many needs and disparities faced by our community. Equality California is dedicated to working with Insurance Commissioner Lara and healthcare providers across the state until LGBTQ+ people are treated with dignity every time we step foot inside a doctor's office."

For example, transgender people should have equal access to the same health insurance and care as every other insured Californian. This includes health care related to gender transition, which for years has been recognized by the medical community as medically effective and necessary for many individuals, as well as routine tests and treatment that sometimes have been denied to transgender individuals based on a provider’s perceived notion of the individual’s association with a specific binary gender, such as pap smears or prostate cancer screenings. Commissioner Lara believes that no one, transgender or not, should be treated unfairly and not have access to the care they need and deserve.

Expanding LGBTQ+ health access in California and nationally

At the national level, Commissioner Lara is expanding the focus of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to include LGBTQ+ equity in his role as Co-Chair of the Special Committee on Race and Insurance group dedicated to health insurance.

Commissioner Lara led the effort to oppose the Trump Administration’s rollback of anti-discrimination protections, with 18 state insurance commissioners sending a letter in support of protections for transgender and women’s health.

Commissioner Lara also created the Health Equity and Access Office within the California Department of Insurance to continue to advocate for policies that eliminate disparities in health care and further expand access.

In the current state legislative session, Commissioner Lara is sponsoring Senate Bill 280, authored by Senator Monique Limón, to extend anti-discrimination protections and require large group market health insurance policies to cover medically necessary basic health care services, such as those services needed for reconstructive surgery in transgender care, across all health insurance market segments. The bill is pending a hearing before the Assembly Committee on Health.

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Media Note:

Since taking office, Commissioner Lara has taken numerous actions to expand insurance protections for LGBTQ+ Californians. For more information follow this link.

Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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