Liz James is CEO of the Houston-based Lesbian Health Initiative.
The group recently got a grant to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act.
James says that within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, one out of three people are uninsured — a much higher rate than the general population.
“I’m one of these LGBT folks that did not have insurance. I’m a lesbian, I had a gap in my insurance coverage, and I have pre-existing conditions. And so in December you can bet I enrolled.”
Because they can’t marry in Texas and most other states, gays and lesbians often can’t get insurance through their partners.
James says LGBT people have specific health needs, such as higher breast cancer rates among lesbians.
“We smoke at a much higher rate than the general population. Actually, lesbian and bisexual women are more obese as a general rule than heterosexual women and we know that both smoking and obesity are a risk factors for cancer.”
The Lesbian Health Initiative also works locally to educate doctors, conduct research and end health care discrimination.
For example, lesbians and bisexual women are ten times less likely to be screened for cervical cancer than heterosexual women.
“And there’s multiple reasons for that but quite frankly one of the biggest reasons there are actually physicians that don’t think lesbians need to be screened.”
The Affordable Care Act can help, because it requires health plans to cover the entire cost of basic annual screenings like Pap smears and mammograms.