Article | February 2017

LGBT Health Disparities

Health disparities are differences in health between different groups of people. LGBT people experience a number of health disparities. They're at higher risk of certain conditions, have less access to health care, and have worse health outcomes. These disparities are seen in the areas of behavioral health, physical health, and access to care.

Behavioral health. Behavioral health includes mental health, substance abuse, and addiction. LGBT people are at greater risk of:

  • Suicide and suicidal thoughts1
  • Mood disorders and anxiety1
  • Eating disorders1
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse1

Physical health. LGBT people are at greater risk for certain conditions, diseases, and infections:

  • LGBT people are more likely to rate their health as poor and report more chronic conditions.2
  • Lesbian and bisexual women have higher rates of breast cancer, and transgender men and women are at greater risk.3
  • LGBT people have higher rates of HPV infection.4
  • Lesbian and bisexual women may have a higher risk of cervical cancer, and gay and bisexual men may have a higher risk of anal cancer.4
  • LGBT people are more likely to be obese.5
  • Gay and bisexual men are more likely to have HIV/AIDS.6

Access to care. LGBT people have less access to the health care they need. They are:

  • Less likely to have health insurance1
  • Less likely to fill prescriptions1
  • More likely to use the emergency room or delay getting care1
  • More likely to be refused health care services and be harassed by health care providers1

What causes these disparities?

There are many causes of the health disparities faced by LGBT people. These include:

  • The minority status of LGBT people
  • A lack of specific education and training for health care workers
  • A lack of clinical research on LGBT health-related issues
  • Restrictive health benefits
  • Limited role models
  • Fear due to stigma, discrimination, and institutional bias in the health care system.

What is Cigna doing to reduce these disparities?

Cigna understands the importance of addressing health disparities facing the LGBT population and is working to close these gaps. We are working internally to educate, train, and support our team members. And we’re working externally to support our customers, clients, and our network of health care providers.

Here are a few of the steps we’re taking to address LGBT disparities:

  • We’ve created a National Medical Director for LGBT Health and Well-Being role.
  • We’re expanding in-network access to transgender care.
  • We’ve provided specific training on LGBT health issues to over 600 Cigna clinicians, and resources are available to all in-network health providers on the Cigna website.
  • We’re educating our employees on LGBT health disparities, and have formed a LGBT Colleague Resource Group.
  • We participate in and support organizations and events such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Mautner project, Hetrick-Martin Institute, Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference, Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, Pride, and Out and Equal.

Finding the Right Health Care Professional

Finding a health care professional you’re comfortable with is important. If you have a health plan, your carrier may offer tools to help you search for in-network health care professionals by specialty and view health care professional details such as cost or quality information. You can also call the health care professional’s office to find out more information, including if they participate in your health plan’s network.

Cigna customers may go to to search for an in-network health care professional or facility.

LGBT Provider Resources

Other health care professionals may or may not participate in your health plan. Please check your plan’s directory or call the health care professional to find out if they participate in your health plan’s network.

  • The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s (GLMA) mission is to ensure equality in health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and health care professionals. Visit for more information.
  • The World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) mission is to promote evidence based care, education, research, advocacy, public policy, and respect in transgender health. Visit for more information.

The content provided on this web site is not medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.

1Grant, Jaime M., Lisa A. Mottet, Justin Tanis, Jack Harrison, Jody L. Herman, and Mara Keisling. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011.

2Lick, D., Durso, L.E., & Johnson, K.L. (2013). Minority Stress and Physical Health Among Sexual Minorities. Pers on Psychological Sci 8(5): 521-548.

3Dibble, S.L., Roberts, S.A., and Nussey, B. (2004) Comparing breast cancer risk between lesbians and their heterosexual sisters. Women’s Health Issues March-April 2004 Volume 14(2)60-68

4National LGBT Cancer Network. Electronic article HPV and Cancer. (2013)

5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health Statistics Reports (July 2014) Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2013.

6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). HIV Among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men