SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL BARRIERS TO HEALTHCARE ACCESS AND UTILIZATION FOR LESBIAN, GAY, AND BISEXUAL PEOPLE IN CALIFORNIA.
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Sexual minorities, lesbian, gay and bisexual people, are exposed to chronic stigmatization and heteronormativity in their daily lives and when they access health care. There are no genetic differences between sexual minorities and their heterosexual counterparts; the literature demonstrates that chronic stress related to being a minority, experiences associated with accessing care in a system that assumes one is heterosexual, exposure to negative attitudes from others, and internalized negative attitudes regarding one’s sexuality impact health outcomes and healthcare access and utilization. While there are known barriers to healthcare access the literature does not examine how multiple social identities influence healthcare access in sexual minorities. Intersectionality posits that the interconnected nature of social identities creates an overlapping and interdependent system of disadvantage. This study had three aims: 1) To examine differences in healthcare access at the intersections of urbanicity, race/ethnicity, and sexual identity; 2) examine differences in healthcare access at the intersections of sexual identity, gender, and income; and 3) determine whether non-identifying sexual minorities have disparate access to healthcare compared to identifying sexual minorities.
Using 2014-2017 California Health Interview Survey data combined with the supplemental sexual orientation special use research file, I examined the relationship between healthcare access and utilization outcomes and the intersections between sexual identity, urbanicity, gender, income, and sexual identity disclosures. Using known evidence of barriers to healthcare access as dependent variables I used predictive modeling to estimate odds ratios of experiencing barriers to healthcare access using adjusted logistic regressions. The results of my dissertation produced evidence that for sexual minorities in California, sexual identity is associated with varying levels of healthcare access when examined within the context of other social identities. That is, there are differences in access and utilization amongst sexual minorities based on income and gender, and within subgroups of sexual minorities, especially in female and bisexual subgroups. Urban and rural environment did not determine healthcare access in sexual minorities and there was not enough data to confidently estimate differences in access between urban and rural sexual minorities of color. Study findings demonstrate that the female gender has more disadvantages to healthcare access that advantages regardless of income and sexual identity. They also demonstrated that income does not fully mitigate access barriers in sexual minority women. Lastly, findings from the study demonstrate that the non-identifying sexual minority identity is associated with less access to healthcare, specifically in men.
Findings from this dissertation contributes to the knowledge of how disparities in healthcare access and utilization continue to persist in the sexual minority population despite increased access to healthcare coverage. This dissertation suggests that other factors uniquely related to being female and bisexual are salient for accessing healthcare for sexual minorities. It is essential that researchers, policy makers, and healthcare providers and staff provide more data on sexual minorities, create curated policy to support the most vulnerable sexual minorities, and engage in culturally sensitive training to eliminate barriers to healthcare access for sexual minorities to eliminate healthcare access disparities.