The ongoing global pandemic has exacerbated problems in access to healthcare. Meanwhile, LGBTQA+ folks, who already were underrepresented in access to care, have faced disparities in health risks.

Because they are working more minimum wage jobs where they are exposed to the public, many LGBTQ individuals are exposed more often to illnesses like COVID-19. At the same time, a Gallup analysis has shown that LGBTQ populations are more likely than non-LGBT people to lack insurance.

During a public health crisis, with many at their most vulnerable, prioritizing your health is of the utmost importance. But how does one affordably go about that without insurance? From practicing preventative health measures to building a toolkit of resources, employ these methods to help you overcome the sad reality of American healthcare.

The Sad Reality of Healthcare Inequality

Access to healthcare is unfortunately tied to demographic factors, meaning if you represent one of many minority groups, you will be less likely to be able to access and afford healthcare. This sad reality has been scientifically studied time and time again, revealing statistics like:

  • Infant mortality for Black babies is 2.5 times higher than for white babies.
  • Life expectancy for Black men and women is nearly 10 years lower than that of white people.
  • Diabetes is nearly 30% higher in Native American and Latino communities.

For LGBT folks, disparities in care are the result of stigmatization, social stress, and peer victimization that cause communication and treatment barriers. These factors often precipitate high-risk behaviors and influence everything from access to care to opportunities for financial gain. As a result, LGBTQ individuals are 8% more likely to say they do not have money for healthcare needs than non-LGBT individuals, according to the same Gallup poll.

For LGBTQ communities in rural areas, the problem only gets worse. Physicians of all kinds are in short supply in America’s outlying regions, with many fewer doctors and clinics that specialize in LGBTQ care.

The reality of our healthcare system is that the LGBTQ population is underserved and underinsured. This is a problem caused and perpetuated by the same stigma that frequently leads to service cuts and problematic rhetoric within the healthcare sector.

How to Prioritize Your Health While Uninsured

Fortunately, however, you are not alone or without help. Even if you are one of the millions of LGBTQ folk struggling with a lack of insurance, there are choices you can make and resources you can utilize to prioritize your health. As we address systemic problems of inequality in the American healthcare system, consider these strategies for creating positive health outcomes in your life.

Make healthy choices whenever possible.

If you don’t have health insurance, then you likely can’t afford to go to the doctor on as regular a basis as might be advisable. However, there are still plenty of ways to make the most of your health situation and reduce the risks of expensive, preventative illnesses. For example, maintaining a consistent diet and exercise regimen can be enough to keep your bones healthy and stave off illnesses like osteoporosis. Additionally, the proper precautions can help curb the spread of bloodborne pathogens and STDs.

Of course, eating the right foods can be expensive, and finding time for exercise is difficult while working to make ends meet. Make a plan while exploring healthy and cheap food options or find ways to work in a daily walk. Even something as simple as investing in a riser for your desk so you can stand while you work can make a positive impact on your health.

Assemble a list of resources

Beyond making good choices daily that can affect your health outcomes, you can prepare yourself with a list of resources that you have on hand should the need arise. After all, emergency rooms should never deny you care in an emergency, so having at least the phone number and address of the nearest hospital is a start. Then, you can explore what free clinics and federal programs for free screenings are available to you.

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) providers annual pap smears and mammograms in every state. Meanwhile, health and advocacy groups for LGBTQ folks all over Nashville are waiting to help you.

For intersectional members of the LGBTQ community, there are many resources that can assist with mental healthcare, such as directories of inclusive therapists and LGBTQ therapists of color.

Explore your options

Prioritizing your health may seem impossible facing the costs, stigma, and complexity of the healthcare system. However, technology has allowed for new avenues of care that help to reduce the barriers to access. For example, telemedicine services are making care available to LGBTQ individuals often across state borders. As a result, LGBTQ people can explore safer and specialized consults and treatments with just a smartphone and an internet connection.

While there are still costs associated with most telemedicine services, the lack of travel and stigma you will face using these platforms may make care possible where it previously was not. Alternatively, you can explore clinical trials in your area that match your diagnosis. These can offer potential sources of free healthcare that just might improve your life.

Solving Systemic Problems

While no individually implemented strategy can make up for the systemic issues within the healthcare system, the strategies here can help you navigate care as an uninsured LGBTQ person. By making better health decisions daily, assembling a list of resources, and exploring all your alternative care options, you can save money while getting the care you need. Prioritize your health, then engage in the fight for more equitable care.

With the future of the nation’s LGBTQ assistance and even HIV and AIDs programs on the line, keeping up on local legislation and LGBTQ issues is a must. Use your right to vote, protest, and lobby for the change we need. Only then can we start to solve the systemic inequalities that plague our society.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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