SAN DIEGO -- Despite advances in civil rights in the gay and lesbian community, transgender patients still face discrimination and disparities in the health system, an expert on gay healthcare said here.
Transgender people routinely avoid using healthcare resources because of the way physicians may have treated them in the past, or because of fear of being treated differently, said Joe Freund, MD, a family physician in Des Moines, Iowa, who cares for a large base of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) patients.
"I've got trans[gender] patients who refuse to go to the emergency room unless they're basically unconscious because of doctors screaming out of the room when they discovered something they didn't think they were going to find," Freund said at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) scientific assembly. "People are poorly treated at times."
Transgender patients often have difficulty finding physicians who are accepting of their condition, willing to treat them, and knowledgeable about the nuances that come with their care.
"Some practices really don't know very many GLBT folk," Freund said. "What that may create is discomfort that is felt immediately by the patient."
Transgender people are more likely to lack insurance coverage or have inadequate insurance. They also are routinely denied coverage because their gender identity and resulting treatments are deemed pre-existing conditions.
"Hopefully, this will be addressed -- both access issue and exclusion -- when the [Affordable Care Act] comes on board," Freund said.
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