Colorado Transgender Community Continues To See Health Disparities

Nov 18, 2014

While the physical health of Colorado's transgender population is similar to the general population, their mental health outcomes are drastically different. It's just one of a series of key findings in a survey produced by One Colorado in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the LGBT Center of Colorado, Denver Health, and the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado Denver.

As Colorado's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, One Colorado said social and health disparities continue to exist for the state's LGBT Community overall.

The survey, "Transparent: The State of Transgender Health Care in Colorado," seeks to educate the health care and insurance industries as well as the transgender community  about how access to health care affects quality of life.

Leo Kattari, One Colorado's health policy manager, said transgender people are nearly six times more likely to report depression, and four times more likely to report being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than the general population.

"What's really important to take away from this is the mental health disparities are not because people are transgender, it's because of the discrimination, bias, and prejudice they experience on a daily basis," said Kattari.

While the Affordable Care Act has brought improvements to care, the report indicates transgender Coloradans still encounter health care providers and insurers who are unsure, uninformed, or prohibit access to proper care.

"One of the biggest things that we are going to be working on is, in terms of health care, is that insurance carriers are not discriminating against transgender Coloradans and having inclusive plans and covering the services they need," Kattari said. 

Barriers to accessing care for the state's transgender community.
Credit One Colorado

Those covered services could range from a yearly physical to hormone replacement therapy. The group also plans to work with health care providers ensuring they have the education and skills needed to be "culturally responsive and inclusive" of transgender patients. 

"About 88 percent of Colorado physicians say they are totally or pretty comfortable treating transgender clients," he said. "However, only 61 percent of transgender clients say that their provider is transgender friendly or inclusive."

Kattari notes the state of Colorado has taken the protections spelled out in the ACA a step further, saying language expressly prohibiting transgender care must be removed from future policy plans. To date, Kattari said a majority of companies that are part of the Colorado Association of Health Plans have removed the exclusive language,  only three have not.

Beyond the survey, Kattari said One Colorado will work with the transgender community to find ways they can advocate for themselves. The group will also make sure providers are better educated and able to advocate for their transgender patients and provide higher quality care. 

Read the full report here