Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

June 24, 2010
12:01 AM EST

Kay Campbell
(301) 652-1558


Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


Access To Health Insurance For Same-Sex Couples:
A New Study Finds Inequities


Bethesda, MD - A new study of California residents ages 18-64 found that partnered gay men are 42 percent as likely as married heterosexual men to get employer-sponsored dependent health insurance-and partnered lesbians have an even smaller chance (28 percent) of getting that same coverage, compared to married heterosexual women. The finding was released online today by Health Affairs; the study will also appear in the journal’s August issue. This study is the first to quantify the gap between dependent coverage received by heterosexual employees and that received by lesbian and gay employees, and to quantify the greater extent to which the dependent partners of lesbian and gay employees are uninsured. The study concludes that both of these sexual orientation disparities are greater than may have been thought.


The Effects Of Unequal Access To Health Insurance
For Same-Sex Couples In California
By Ninez A. Ponce, Susan D. Cochran, Jennifer C. Pizer and Vickie M. Mays


Ponce, Cochran, and Mays are affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Pizer is with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, in Los Angeles.


The study used data from the California Health Interview Survey, combining three years of adult files (2001, 2003, and 2005) from the survey; the final sample contained 63,719 females and 46,535 males. (Note: most of the data were collected before full implementation of the California Insurance Equality Act of 2005.) In the sample, 51 percent of lesbians and 38 percent of gay men reported being in a partnered or married relationship, compared to 64 percent of female and 64 percent of male heterosexuals. The authors found no strong evidence to suggest that California employers are discriminating in providing health insurance to gay and lesbian workers as individuals. However, they did find that these employers were setting coverage rules for dependents that favored legally and heterosexually married employees. The authors expect that the 2005 California law as well as the national Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may serve to alleviate some of the disparities documented by this study. They also found, however, that the way government agencies and employers define “dependents” and the federal taxation of health benefits for a same-sex spouse or partner continue to be “a relevant underlying structural determinant of whether or to what extent sexual-orientation minorities will have more equal access to employer-sponsored insurance.” Achieving universal coverage, they conclude, depends, in part, on “remedying inequalities in state and federal marriage-related rules.”

About Health Affairs

Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published weekly at The full text of each Health Affairs Web First paper is available free of charge to all Web-site visitors for a two-week period following posting, after which it switches to pay-per-view for nonsubscribers. Web First papers are supported in part by a grant from The Commonwealth Fund.