Alex Blaze

Health care poll

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 19, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Harris Interactive, health care reform, Methodology, polling, the Harris Poll

I was going to post on this lesbian and gay health care item that's been making its way around:

Nearly one in four gay and lesbian adults lack health insurance and are nearly twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to have no health insurance coverage according to a new national survey released Monday.

But, well, it doesn't quite have the punch that it seems to on the surface.

I saw that headline and read the lead and thought "Wow! I need to post on that! That's about queer people not having the same access to health care as society in general, which already has very much not-universal access to health care. That's, like, what I post about all the time!" (I, in fact, use the word "like" too much when I think to myself. It's a habit I should break, but I, like, can't bring myself to do it.)

But then I noticed something:

The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 22 percent of gay and lesbian survey respondents reported having no health insurance, compared to only 12 percent of heterosexual adults in the survey.

It's the exact poll whose methodology I made fun of a week ago. It's Harris Interactive, not the Harris Poll. It's a webpoll, and, frankly, they aren't accurate. Nor can its accuracy be proven (like any survey's accuracy can really be proven, I suppose...).

But I did get caught up in it when I read it, even though I had already discounted it a week before. This doesn't mean that the basic idea (LGBT people don't have the same access to health care) is incorrect - it's probably true considering that the two most common means of distributing health care benefits (job and marriage) are where LGBT people end up on the short end of the stick.

But it does go to show how easy it is to think that polling that supports what you already thought is more likely to be accepted without scrutiny, and that's, like, the real lesson for me today.

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I have health insurance, some of the best. Now how do I go about getting doctors to treat me? THAT is the big question for me. I have been turned away by doctors unwilling to treat post op transwomen by a margin of more than 20:1. I currently have NO primary care physician. I manage my meds pretty much myself and get my prescriptions from an overly busy endo who really doesn't have time to pay attention to my case on a regular basis. In trying to find a gyno after surgery, I had the biggest hospital in Seattle--Harbor View--tell me I should go back to Thailand "where they treat people like you" for any aftercare and ongoing gynecological care. I would say that for trans folk, having health insurance is only about 10% of the battle. And this is Seattle, a liberal mecca of America. God help those not living on the coasts.

I have insurance at work and a supplement plan being Trans it covers nada zip on any thing related to these kinds of health issues. So its all out of pocket for my Trans related care break a toe get sick yes they cover me daa say I want hormone pills covered forget it.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 20, 2008 12:09 AM

"Polls show that 80% of Americans oppose same sex Marriage."

"Polls show that 40% of all Americans believe in UFO's"

"Polls show that regardless of the cost of oil Americans will never give up their SUV's"

It is all in how you phrase the question to the respondent.

Shannon, I presume you went to Bangkok General in Thailand for your reassignment surgery. Are you telling me that the surgeon in Thailand could not refer you to a doctor in the US? My Thai doctor interned at UCLA and University of Denver. I should think that if you contact your performing hospital in Thailand they could refer you. Ethically they should want to refer you for follow up care.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 20, 2008 3:39 AM

Polling overwhelmingly shows that Americans want far better health care than we get. The answer is the kind of socialized medicine common in western Europe, Canada, Cuba and other advanced coutries.

We won't be getting any of that action because the owners and leaders of the Democratic(sic)/Republican party are obstinately opposed to it. I wish everyone had Medicare but Clinton and Obama veto the idea because they're handpuppets of Big Pharma and the HMO's. (McCain would like be a handpuppet but his campiagn is going nowhere fast and they pretty much dismiss him, as do the war contractors.) - Obama's pro industry healthcare plan the fastest growing union in the AFL-CIO - McCains pro industry health care plan - Clinton gets the big bucks from the industry - Clintons pro industry health care plan, or, why she gets the big bucks

Shannon's comments are very troubling to me, because I've never encountered the problem, and the magnitude of the issue she raises wasn't part of my frame of reference with regard to trans issues.
I've heard of others having some trouble finding doctors, but never considered it a major personal problem. This is as important an issue as ENDA or even hate crime legislation.
I would suggest we dialogue here at Bilerico concerning ways to address this issue. If someone dealt with this in their part of the country, how was it resolved? Does it need to be addressed by Federal or state legislation? We need to come up with a list of physicians who aren't bigoted against the gender variant community.
The next time you see your doctor, ask him/her how this issue can be addressed.

Ok, some of the rest of the story.

I posted this additional comment over at Pam's House Blend on a similar thread:

And I will add here that this is not an issue sigular to my experience. I have tried to help others in Western Washington find doctors to treat them, most recently just under two weeks ago a woman contacted me because she had just moved here and couldn't find a physician to treat her. The woman said the doctor she went to in Everett, WA (about the 4th or 5th largest city in WA) refused to prescribe her hormones because of his religious beliefs. How far do you think he could have gotten with that if his religious beliefs had included not treating people of color? Yet it seems perfectly acceptable for transfolk to be refused service by the medical community on a regular basis. For the last two years if I get too sick to just stay home and throw up on my own, I have to go to overcrowded urgent care centers and get diagnoses and prescriptions from nurse practicioners to whom I am careful not to disclose my trans history. I use several so that no one ever gets a chance to build up a history on me and connect the dots. This is the very real life that trans people lead with regard to the medical establishment every day. It sucks.

What happens when we walk into a doctor's office verges on bizarre. At first everyone is happy, "How are you today," and so on just like any other patient. They start with the medical history questions and then the wheels come off when they get to when was your last period? If you tell them, their faces will fall, everyone will move to the other side of the room like you just told them you have TB.

As to Robert Ganshorn's question, no doctor has a list of every accepting doctor in every city in the US. My doctor knows folks in CA too, but not Seattle. And what do you do if you are from say...Missoula, MT? You see, your logic of referrals is not applicable in most places.

And I definitely consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was able to pay for surgery. I HAVE health insurance and a job. I have a place to live that doesn't have "Shelter" in its name. The reason I raise this issue is not that I cannot get along, it is the so many others that are so much worse off. Our medical system is a disaster and the insurance issue is only the tip of the iceberg. I also do not gain a lot of comfort from either of the plans put forward by the Democratic contenders for the nomination.

We desparately need a medical non-discrimination act in this country for everything from women who cannot get their prescriptions filled for birth-control meds to transgendered patients. Even with that, a lot of it has to start with education at the medical schools. How many medical schools even teach abortion any more? And transgender medicine on the cirriculum? Not a chance. I'd be willing to wager that if you found a post-operative trans person in your town and asked them medical questions on trans medicine you would find them far more knowledgable on available medications, dosages, delivery methods, and appropriate serum levels of hormones than any group of 10 doctors you could pick out of your local yellow pages. Now put yourself in the place of a young transperson seeking information, if they cannot depend on the medical community, they are forced to try and seek out knowledgable older transfolk, most of whom have long blended into society and are difficult to find, even if they are willing to make themselves available for that purpose.

If you meet someone that doesn't understand trans issues and is fearful on the street, you can walk away. When it is your medical provider community, you are walking away from the basic needs of health and preventative medicine. How would we feel about doctors that only treated white people, or only treated males--everyone else was on their own. That is how a lot of the trans community sees the medical profession--its care for everyone but them.

I had to go look this up because it bothered me the last time you posted.

Harris Interactive is also known as HarrisPollOnline. They're owned by the Harris Poll and is their online polling center.

Harris Interactive conducts research using a variety of methods, ranging from online surveys and focus groups (chat room style or bulletin board style), telephone and direct mail to in person focus groups and personal interviews. Currently, we use the Harris Poll Online to conduct surveys via the Internet for:
*Added convenience to respondents
*Fast turnaround
*Identifying potential panel members for focus groups, both online and in person.