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The Effects of Unequal Access to Health Insurance for Same-Sex Couples in California (Health Affairs)

June 1, 2010

CHIS Journal Article

Authors: Ninez A. Ponce, PhD, MPP, Susan D. Cochran, Jennifer C. Pizer, Vickie M. Mays

In this Health Affairs journal article, data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) are used to find that gay and lesbian couples are far less likely than heterosexual couples to have job-based health insurance.

Specifically, the authors found that partnered gay men in California are only 42 percent as likely as married heterosexual men to get employer-sponsored dependent health insurance. Partnered lesbians in the state have an even smaller chance (28 percent) of getting that same coverage, compared to married heterosexual women.

The study, which uses data from three CHIS cycles (2001, 2003, 2005), is the first to quantify 1) the gap between dependent coverage received by heterosexual employees and coverage received by lesbian and gay employees, and 2) 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 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.

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