Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

Same-Sex Couples' Kids Less Likely to Have Private Health Insurance: Study

MONDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Children of same-sex parents are less likely than their peers to have private health insurance, but the disparity shrinks in states that recognize legal same-sex unions, a new U.S. study finds.

The results are not surprising, experts say, because employers have not had to extend health benefits to an employee's same-sex partner -- or that partner's children.

But the study does highlight a less-talked-about aspect of the debate on gay marriage, said lead researcher Gilbert Gonzales, a Ph.D. candidate in health policy and management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

"We're fairly certain from past research that access to health insurance does directly affect children's health," Gonzales said. But there's been little research into whether same-sex couples' kids lack access.

Using data from a large federal survey, the investigators found that about two-thirds of U.S. children and teens with same-sex parents had private health insurance (63 percent of those with two fathers, and about 68 percent with two mothers).

That compared with about 78 percent of kids with married heterosexual parents, the researchers report online Sept. 16 in Pediatrics.

And when they weighed other factors -- such as parents' incomes and education -- the researchers found that kids living with same-sex parents were 39 percent to 45 percent less likely to have private health insurance versus those with a married mom and dad.

The results looked different, however, in states that allowed gay marriage or civil unions, or had comprehensive domestic partnership laws, Gonzales said.

In those states, kids living with two mothers were no less likely to have private insurance, though their peers with two fathers still were. And there were no clear disparities in states that allowed "second-parent adoptions" -- which means both partners in a same-sex relationship can be their child's legally adoptive parent.

"I think we are going to see more and more research like this that shows how marriage-equality laws have far-reaching health consequences," said Richard Wight, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose work has found a link between legal unions and better mental health for gay and lesbian adults.

Wight likened marriage equality to a "structural intervention." That refers to any broad policy, from seatbelt laws to fluoride in drinking water, that can affect people's well-being -- "sometimes without them even realizing it," Wight noted.

"Increasingly," he said, "research is demonstrating that laws legalizing same-sex marriages are advantageous to health."

The current study did not look at children's actual well-being. But like Gonzales, Wight pointed to the known correlation between access to health insurance and children's health.

Right now, 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage, and another six recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships that include full spousal and family rights. Eighteen states allow second-parent adoptions.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. The decision opened the door for same-sex couples who are legally married in their state to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples do.

That may make it easier for some children of same-sex couples to get health insurance, Gonzales said.

As it stood, even couples who were legally married in their state faced barriers to getting employer-sponsored health insurance for their families. Because federal law did not recognize the marriage, health coverage for a spouse or children was considered income -- and it was taxed. So same-sex married employees had to pay more out of their own pockets than their heterosexual counterparts did. Their employers also had bigger costs, in the form of a higher payroll tax.

Without the tax obstacle, same-sex couples may have an easier time, said Gonzales. It's not clear what could happen in states without legal same-sex unions, but Gonzales noted that many large companies have been voluntarily extending health insurance to the families of gay and lesbian employees.

Last month, for example, Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest private employer -- said it would start offering health benefits to U.S. employees' domestic partners, including those of the same sex.

The current findings, which support the American Academy of Pediatrics' endorsements of same-sex marriage, are based on data from a 2008-2010 Census Bureau Survey. It covered 5,081 U.S. children and teens living with same-sex parents, nearly 1.4 million who were living with a married mother and father, and more than 100,000 living with an unmarried mom and dad.

Along with the discrepancy in private health coverage, the researchers found that 10 percent of kids with two fathers were uninsured versus less than 7 percent of those with a married mother and father. Just over 7 percent of kids living with two mothers were uninsured.

Children of same-sex parents were also more often on public insurance -- with about one-quarter getting benefits, compared with 16 percent of kids with married heterosexual parents.

If legal same-sex marriage does boost private health coverage for kids, Wight said it could be a "win-win" for those families and for the public in general.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on same-sex marriage and child health.

SOURCES: Gilbert Gonzales, MHA, Ph.D. candidate, health policy and management, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Richard Wight, Ph.D., associate researcher, community health sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health; October 2013, Pediatrics

Reviewed Date: --

Find a pediatrician
Health Tips
Boost Your Teen Daughter’s Body Image
Cool Tools to Keep Your Kids From Smoking
Could Your Child Have a Drug Problem?
Do Parents Influence Their Kids’ Health Behaviors?
Growing Up Short or Heavy Can Be Difficult
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
Helping Children Conquer Fear
How Old Is 'Old Enough' for Contacts?
How to Prevent Childhood Obesity
How to Talk About Drugs With Your Kids
Keeping Your Cool When Parenting Teens
Kids' Health Concerns Ease with Age
Making Rules for Children Reinforces Love
Making the Most of Family Moments
Making This School Year Your Child's Best Ever
New Parents...Sore Backs
Parents-to-Be Must Communicate
Paying for Attention: Abuse of Prescription ADHD Drugs Rising on College Campuses
Preparing Your Daughter for Changes
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Solving Battles at Mealtime
Talk With Your Kids About These Issues
Talking Sex with Your Teen
Teens and Talk: What's a Parent to Do?
We Can Head Off Teen Tragedies
What Kids Drink Is Important, Too
When Children Say 'No' to New Foods
When to Call the Doctor for Childhood Illnesses
When Your Child Says, 'I'm Sick'
Diseases & Conditions
AIDS/HIV in Children
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma and Children
Asthma in Children Index
Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboarding Safety--Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates
Bipolar Disorder in Children
Bone Marrow Transplantation in Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Diphtheria in Children
During an Asthma Attack
Ewing Sarcoma
Hepatitis B (HBV) in Children
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Meningitis in Children
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Muscular Dystrophy
Myasthenia Gravis in Children
Osteosarcoma in Children
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Poliomyelitis (Polio) in Children
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries Overview
Television and Children
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Heart
The Kidneys
Vision Overview
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.