Same-sex couples report more barriers to care and poorer interactions with providers than those in heterosexual marriages
Compared to married heterosexual couples, individuals who are part of same-sex couples report more difficulty in seeing specialists and getting medical care when needed, and more frequently experience delays in having required prescriptions filled, according to a new study. James Kirby, Ph.D., of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Joseph Clift, Ed.D., M.S., P.M.P., of the Health Resources and Services Administration, examined 12 years of data from AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The researchers report that the 696 men and women who belonged to same-sex couples were significantly younger, better educated, and had higher incomes than the 136,676 men and women who were part of different-sex married couples. Both groups were comparable in having a usual source of care and having a routine checkup in the past year.
However, a significantly lower percentage of individuals in same-sex couples reported getting nonurgent care when they wanted it (74.3 percent vs. 83.7 percent) or found it easy to see a specialist (62.2 percent vs. 76.6 percent). A greater percentage of men in same-sex couples received flu shots than did men in different sex couples (42.9 percent vs. 31.4 percent), possibly because of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for men who have sex with men. A smaller percentage of individuals in same-sex couples reported that their doctor explained health information so it could be understood or that the doctor showed them respect, though these percentages were not significantly different from persons in different-sex married couples. Significantly fewer women in same-sex couples than women in different-sex married couples reported that their doctor spent enough time discussing their health concerns (76.0 percent vs. 86.1 percent).
More details are in "Health care access and perceptions of provider care among individuals in same–sex couples: Findings from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)," by Drs. Clift and Kirby in the 2012 Special Issue on LGBT Health Research of the Journal of Homosexuality 59(6), pp. 839–850. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 13-R006) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.