Barriers to Care Among Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Adults

December 2017 | Gilbert Gonzales, Carrie Henning-Smith | Featured Article, Original Investigation

Policy Points:

  • Transgender and gender nonconforming (GNC) adults may experience barriers to care for a variety of reasons, including discrimination and lack of awareness by providers in health care settings.
  • In our analysis of a large, population-based sample, we found transgender and GNC adults were more likely to be uninsured and have unmet health care needs, and were less likely to have routine care, compared to cisgender (nontransgender) women. Our findings varied by gender identity.
  • More research is needed on transgender and GNC populations, including on how public policy and provider awareness affects health care access and health outcomes differentially by gender identity.

Context: Very little population-based research has examined health and access to care among transgender populations. This study compared barriers to care between cisgender, transgender, and gender nonconforming (GNC) adults using data from a large, multistate sample.

Methods: We used data from the 2014-2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to estimate the prevalence of having no health insurance, unmet medical care needs due to cost, no routine checkup, and no usual source of care for cisgender women (n=183,370), cisgender men (n=131,080), transgender women (n = 724), transgender men (n = 449), and GNC adults (n = 270). Logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for each barrier to care while adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics.

Findings: Transgender and GNC adults were more likely to be nonwhite, sexual minority, and socioeconomically disadvantaged compared to cisgender adults. After controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, transgender women were more likely to have no health insurance (OR = 1.60; 95% CI = 1.07-2.40) compared to cisgender women; transgender men were more likely to have no health insurance (OR = 2.02; 95% CI = 1.25-3.25) and no usual source of care (OR = 1.84; 95% CI = 1.18-2.88); and GNC adults were more likely to have unmet medical care needs due to cost (OR = 1.93; 95% CI = 1.02-3.67) and no routine checkup in the prior year (OR = 2.41; 95% CI = 1.41-4.12).

Conclusions: Transgender and GNC adults face barriers to health care that may be due to a variety of reasons, including discrimination in health care, health insurance policies, employment, and public policy or lack of awareness among health care providers on transgender-related health issues.

Keywords: transgender, barriers to care, LGBT health.

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Volume 95, Issue 4 (pages 726-748)
DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12297
Published in 2017