Many health insurers support LGBTQ+ members with dedicated LGBTQ+ content that addresses the differing needs of the LGBTQ+ community. In general, seeking health services can be an ironically uncomfortable maze full of indecipherable medical jargon and confusing insurance requirements. The LGBTQ+ community has further challenges: a higher risk of certain conditions, lower rates of insurance and higher rates of delaying care. With content that addresses the specific health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals, insurers can help reduce health disparities and improve the lives of their LGBTQ+ members.

There is no standard for online LGBTQ+ health-related content. Each firm does it just a tad differently, but a review of the firms in our Health Plan Monitor coverage set reveals four salient features of LGBTQ-related content:

  • Easy findability
  • Mental health resources
  • LGBTQ-affirming providers
  • HIV prevention/PrEP information

Let’s take a look at an example of each.

Easy findability

Ideally, a resource center of any kind is easily findable. After all, resources are meant to be used, but healthcare users sometimes struggle to notice new resources from their insurer. BCBS of Illinois ensures this of their LGBTQ Support page with a link on its main menu Member Services flyout. Users do not have to dig through pages of educational content or endlessly scroll through search results to learn that the firm offers LGBTQ resources. BCBS of Illinois is smart to boost the visibility of a support page for a community that is slower to trust health insurers as compared to the general population.

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BCBS of Illinois Public Site Main Menu LGBTQ Support Link

Mental health resources

Behavioral resources are an essential part of any healthcare site, and are particularly valuable to LGBTQ+ patients, who have higher prevalence of mental health conditions like depressionanxiety, substance misusesuicidality and HIV. UnitedHealthcare provides a particularly robust list of helpful third-party resources on its public site LGBTQ+ Resources page. Such a comprehensive list gives users the ability to find a resource specific to their mental health needs—the list is so long, with 17 options, that it risks overwhelming users with choice. Clicking the linked site opens the chosen site in a new tab while clicking the linked phone numbers prompts users to dial the chosen number.

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UnitedHealthcare Public Site LGBTQ+ Mental Health Resources Page

Alternatively, Aetna includes a Non-Binary & LGBTQ+ tile in the Resources section of its public site Mental Health page. When clicked, the tile brings users to The Trevor Project’s homepage where they can explore a myriad of LGBTQ-specific topics, connect with a counselor and meet other members of the LGBTQ+ community. Aetna’s information architecture presents a specific LGBTQ+ option for those seeking mental health support. Inversely, UnitedHealthcare’s resource list presents mental health resources for those seeking LGBTQ+ support. Both of these avenues help connect LGBTQ+ users with critically important third-party resources.

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Aetna Public Site Mental Health Page – Non-Binary & LGBTQ+ Tile

 

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The Trevor Project Public Site Homepage

LGBTQ-affirming providers

Trust is an essential component of the patient-provider relationship. Patients want to trust that providers understand their needs and background and can provide appropriate care. This is particularly important in the LGBTQ+ community, which has different healthcare needs than the general population. Trust is particularly important in the post-pandemic healthcare system, as COVID-19 lowered trust for both patients and providers, and LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to express concerns about the healthcare system overall. Decreased trust can have important consequences, with LGBTQ+ patients more likely to delay or avoid healthcare.

Providers can help increase trust by offering the ability to search for LGBTQ+-competent providers on a health plan sites. UPMC Health Plan’s public site makes it easy for users to find such providers on a dedicated LGBTQIA+ Affirming Experts page. Housing expandable sections full of providers and informational pages for various care categories, this page makes it easy for LGBTQ+ patients to quickly identify a resource based on their needs.

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UPMC Health Plan Public Site LGBTQIA+ Affirming Experts Page (Truncated)

HIV prevention information

Even though the LGBTQ+ community is at a higher risk of HIV infection, HIV prevention information is relatively sparse across health plan sites. According to the CDC, greater access to HIV testing, treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis (a preventative medication commonly referred to as PrEP) have strengthened overall HIV prevention. But of the estimated 1.2 million Americans who could benefit from PrEP, fewer than 25% actually take it. UPMC Health Plan does well, therefore, to include a definition of what PrEP is for LGBTQIA+ adults who might be unaware. Simple sections like this firm’s serve as reminders with a positive impact towards reducing the prevalence of HIV.

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UPMC Health Plan Public Site PrEP/nPEP Information

Health Insurers Can Help Reduce Disparities

As pivotal players in the healthcare industry, and as organizations invested in the health and wellbeing of their members, insurers have a responsibility to address the unique needs of all their members. Insurance companies are not going to remedy the total burden of health inequities singlehandedly. They can, however, fight health disparities through their virtual resource offerings. The highlighted characteristics reviewed here underscore the importance of usable content that actively helps LGBTQ+ individuals find, receive, and maintain high-quality healthcare.

For more insights into digital innovation in the healthcare space, check out our research services in four areas: Health PlanMedicareHealth System and Pharmacy. For deep dives into specific topics, check out our Healthcare Briefings. Don’t forget to visit our Insights section for more industry trends and best practices across the healthcare industry.

Jackson Farmar

Jackson Farmar is an analyst on CI's healthcare research team.