Seeking to improve health outcomes for the LGBTQ+ community

Employers who provide benefits that support LGBTQ+ employees may be more successful at recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.

In the U.S., the number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and others) has increased to 7.6%, with more than 1 in 5 Generation Z (Gen Z) adults identifying as LGBTQ+.With the oldest segment of Gen Z turning 27 in 2024, creating a culture that is welcoming to all has become increasingly important for employers to attract and retain this talent pool.

In fact, employers who provide an LGBTQ+-inclusive workplace experience up to 50% higher LGBTQ+ employee retention and earn higher revenues.2 People want to work where they feel welcome and safe: 25% of LGBTQ+ individuals report that their work environment and the feeling of safety and inclusion keep them at their jobs.2

To create a culture that supports the LGBTQ+ community, employers can start by actively recruiting and promoting LGBTQ+ talent, embracing inclusive policies and encouraging practices such as adding preferred pronouns to email signatures. Furthermore, the development of LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can help build a sense of community in the workplace.

By offering a health plan that provides benefits such as behavioral health support tailored to the LGBTQ+ community, employers may be giving themselves an advantage in today’s competitive labor market.

Ensuring health plans meet the needs of LGBTQ+ employees is an important step employers can take to demonstrate their commitment to this population. This can include:

Helping LGBTQ+ employees find supportive care

LGBTQ+ individuals are
more likely to experience depression, anxiety and substance misuse3

In a recent survey, 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming respondents, and 56% of lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents, reported having negative experiences with health care providers.4 In many cases, this can lead to deferring or avoiding health care altogether.

To help ensure providers are exhibiting cultural competence, Optum — an affiliate company of UnitedHealthcare — launched an accredited, no-cost and publicly available education program for providers to learn more about the unique care needs and disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ population.

UnitedHealthcare has also added LGBTQ+ filters into its provider search experience to help make it easier for members to find providers who self-identify as being LGBTQ+ supportive.

In addition, UnitedHealthcare Advocacy solutions work to simplify the health care experience and drive better outcomes for LGBTQ+ members. Employees and their covered family members can call the phone number on their health plan ID card to reach an advocate who can help answer questions about their benefits and claims, finding providers, clinical support, pharmacy needs and more.

Bringing culturally relevant care to LGBTQ+ members in Massachusetts

Pride+ Care at Atrius Health (also known as Optum Massachusetts) is a pilot program aimed at providing inclusive primary care for the LGBTQ+ community in Massachusetts. The program allows for in-person, online via telehealth or asynchronous options to meet every schedule, including dedicated appointment times for new patients.

Taking a whole-person approach to health care, this program not only connects members to a primary care provider but also connects them with a dedicated mental health clinician, a care facilitator and a program manager — all of whom are focused on supporting the patient’s overall health and well-being.

As an extension of the Advocacy program, the Family Engagement Center® provides employees with access to a specialized team of advocates familiar with LGBTQ+ health needs and gender-affirming care options. Members can connect with a dedicated, 1-on-1 Care Advisor who is specially trained to help employees and their covered family members with administrative support and education on clinical services and policy coverage.

“We’re hearing from the LGBTQ+ community that they want more from their employer benefit plans. That includes access to family planning resources beyond fertility treatments — for example, support for surrogacy and adoption.”

— Craig Kurtzweil, Chief Data & Analytics Officer, UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual

Offering benefits designed to support LGBTQ+ families

Many LGBTQ+ couples grow their families through assisted reproductive technology (ART) and surrogacy, as well as adoption and foster care. These individuals may be seeking support to help cover the costs of bringing a child into their family:5

  • Gestational surrogacy: Average cost $150K
  • Domestic adoption: Average cost $32K
  • IVF fertility treatments: Average cost $5K per cycle

Employers can help offset some of these costs by offering a health plan that includes benefits like a family reimbursement program, which provides a set amount to help employees and their covered spouses or partners with eligible expenses related to surrogacy or adoption.

Fertility benefits can also help support LGBTQ+ employees. For example, the UnitedHealthcare Fertility Solutions program offers information and emotional support for prospective parents exploring pregnancy options. The program’s Fertility Center of Excellence (COE) designation guides members to specialists who have demonstrated success in increasing the chance of pregnancy.

Providing inclusive resources for LGBTQ+ employees and allies

Other ways employers can build an inclusive workforce is by developing and making resources available to help educate, inform and support LGBTQ+ allies. For instance, some employers have created digital toolkits for their employees.

Optum’s Pride 365+ is an example of a resource employers can make available to their workforce. The site includes ways colleagues can show support and become an LGBTQ+ ally, links to educational podcasts and articles and fact sheets to inform about terminology and best practices for using pronouns in the workplace.

Strengthening the sense of community among LGBTQ+ employees and their allies can help employers attract and retain talent — and make their organizations stronger overall.

Connecting the LGBTQ+ community to care and support

Having a health plan that supports individuals in living their healthiest and most authentic selves matters. From HIV services to gender-affirming care and more, UnitedHealthcare has benefits and resources designed to empower members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community wherever they may be on their health care journey. 

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