Ohio Doctors Can Now Refuse To Treat LGBTQ Patients On ‘Religious’ Grounds

Stock image of a highway sign as you enter Ohio

Stock image of a highway sign as you enter Ohio

Governor Mike DeWine (R) of Ohio has signed a bill that allows medical providers to refuse care to LGBTQ patients if they have an objection based on “religious” grounds.

The new language was apparently buried in last-minute amendments to the state’s two-year budget bill, which DeWine signed into law on June 30. Governor DeWine had the opportunity to line-item veto the language while signing the rest of the budget into law and refused to do so.

The new law allows any medical provider – from doctors and nurses to researchers, lab techs and insurance companies – “the freedom to decline to perform, participate in, or pay for any health care service which violates the practitioner’s, institution’s, or payer’s conscience as informed by the moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”

Local advocates warn this rule legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ patients as well as members of other marginalized groups like drug addicts or people living with HIV or sexually transmitted diseases.

Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David in a statement, “Today governor DeWine enshrined LGBTQ discrimination into law, threatening the medical well being of more than 380,000 LGBTQ people in Ohio, one of the largest LGBTQ populations anywhere in the country.”

“Medical practitioners in Ohio can deny care or coverage for basic, medically-necessary, and potentially life-saving care to LGBTQ people simply because of who they are,” added David.

DeWine insisted the conscience clause will change very little, and claimed that no one in Ohio will be discriminated against.

“This simply puts in statute what the practice has been anyways,” he said. “Let’s say the doctor is against abortion, the doctor is not doing abortion. If there’s other things that maybe a doctor has a conscience problem with, it gets worked out, somebody else does those things.”

Dr. Todd Kepler, southwest medical director of Equitas Health, a nonprofit health care system serving LGBTQ patients in the Midwest, told Cincinnati ABC News affiliate WCPO the ”widely broad” language in the new rule will exacerbate existing barriers to care for many marginalized groups, like drug addicts, people living with HIV, and the LGBT+ community.

“Say I happen to be a gay patient and I wanted to see a provider in my town, and there weren’t really any other providers in town,” said Kepler. “But they find that morally unacceptable, they could turn me away.”

“And the language is so broad that that could even be done at an institutional level. So, if you have a hospital that perhaps has an affiliation with a religious institution, and again, that happens to be the only institution in town, theoretically they could turn that patient away for health care.”

Arkansas Gov. Signs Bill Allowing Healthcare Workers To Refuse Treatment To LGBTQs

The state flag of Arkansas

The state flag of Arkansas

From PBS:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed into law legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a move opponents have said will give providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients and others.

The measure says health care workers and institutions have the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience. The new law won’t take effect until late this summer.

Opponents of the law, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, have said it will allow doctors to refuse to offer a host of services for LGBTQ patients. The state Chamber of Commerce also opposed the measure, saying it sends the wrong message about the state.

Among the concerns opponents have includes LGBTQ people being denied medical care like cutting off hormone treatments for transgender patients or grief counseling for a same-sex couple.

And it’s not just LGBTQ people who could be affected. Healthcare professionals could refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, or physicians could choose to ignore ‘end of life’ directives.

Meanwhile, a hate crime bill that would impose tougher penalties from crimes targeting certain people with certain characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity has stalled in the Arkansas legislature due to objections by conservative lawmakers.

 

Poll: Support For ‘Medicare for All’ Hits 9-Month High

(image via Pixabay)

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affecting not only health care access but costs as well, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey shows support for ‘Medicare for All’ has hit a 9-month high among American voters.

From Morning Consult:

The sweeping health reform package championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would provide all Americans with health insurance through the government now has support from 55 percent of registered voters, per a March 27-29 survey of 1,997 respondents, taken as the United States became the global epicenter of the coronavirus.

Thirty-five percent of voters continue to oppose the proposal, putting net support — the share who support minus those who oppose — at 20 points, a 9-point jump from mid-February.

Part of the increase in support came from independent voters who surged to 52 percent in favor of the approach.

As economists predict sky-high unemployment in the coming months due to the coronavirus threat, questions have resurfaced about health insurance that, for many, is tied to employment.

(image via Morning Consult)

Podcast: Pete Buttigieg, RuPaul, Tom Goss & The Epic Fail Of ‘Straight Pride’

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

In this week’s podcast:

• Sen. Kamala Harris calls Mayor Pete Buttigieg “naive” for relating his experience as a gay man to other marginalized communities.

• A homophobic photographer in Kentucky has filed a lawsuit to block Louisville’s Fairness Ordinance just in case a gay couple were to ask her to shoot their wedding.

• Three federal judges have blocked a new rule announced by the Health and Human Services Department that would allow healthcare professionals to deny service to LGBTQs.

• The Straight Pride event in Dallas was the biggest fail yet.

• Netflix releases teaser video for RuPaul’s upcoming scripted comedy series AJ and The Queen.

• Out singer/songwriter Tom Goss’s new album explores new emotional Territories.

All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report.

Starbucks Expands Transgender Employees’ Healthcare Coverage

(image via Flickr/Yukiko Matsuoka)

Since 2012, employee healthcare plans for coffee company Starbucks has covered gender reassignment surgery for its transgender employees.

But now, the coffee giant has announced expanded coverage for trans employees including breast augmentation, breast reduction, facial feminization and hair transplants.

In exploring new options for trans employees, the coffee purveyor consulted with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Starbucks was the first company in the world to ask WPATH to help translate their recommended standards of care into a medical benefits policy, said Jamison Green, the immediate past president of WPATH, who worked with the company on the benefits package.

“Starbucks was not afraid to ask all the right questions and demand that people get the best possible care,” said Green. “We produced a list of the most crucial benefits and those that are deemed problematic to insurance companies, such as facial feminization and electrolysis.”

Many of the new procedures now available to Starbucks employees were considered ‘cosmetic’ by most insurance companies and therefore not covered. But for trans people, these are essential to trans people in their journey to be who they are.

Tate Buhrmester, 15 year employee of Starbucks, manages a store in Austin, Texas.

A 2014 report from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute found that 41 percent of the 6,500 transgender adults who responded to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey had attempted suicide at some point, compared to the 4.6 percent of the overall population.

One reason for the high percentage of suicide attempts may be “due to distress related to barriers to obtaining transition-related health care, such as a lack of insurance coverage, inability to afford those procedures, or lack of access to providers,” the report authors wrote.

With suicide rates much higher for transgender people compared to the general population (4.6% versus 41%), having access to these procedures can literally be life-saving.

Plus, trans people can often have trouble finding trans-friendly healthcare providers. To address those barriers, Starbucks has advocates trained to work with trans employees to help them navigate the healthcare systems, find the proper providers and help in making sure claims are covered.

Read more about Starbucks’ announcement here.

Trump To Roll Back Transgender Health Care Protections

Donald Trump is looking to roll back a 2016 Health and Human Services rule put in place during the Obama administration that bars healthcare providers who receive federal funds from discriminating against transgender Americans.

From The New York Times:

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in “any health program or activity” that receives federal financial assistance.

The Obama administration said the rule covered “almost all practicing physicians in the United States” because they accept some form of federal remuneration or reimbursement. It applies, for example, to hospitals that accept Medicare and doctors who receive Medicaid payments, as well as to insurers that participate in health insurance marketplaces.

The rule kept insurers from limiting health services like psychotherapy, counseling or hormone treatment as trans patients transitioned from one gender to another.

Some insurers attempted to dodge coverage for these patients saying the treatments were “cosmetic.”

Transgender Americans have been under fire since Donald Trump took office.

In addition to scaling back healthcare regulations, Trump has also proposed banning openly transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.

Plus, Trump’s Education Department has repealed protections allowing transgender students access to school bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

Enrollment For Affordable Care Act Begins Today

Today begins the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t get health insurance through your work, Medicare, Medicaid or some other means, you have until December 15 to enroll.

From the Human Rights Campaign:

Despite reckless efforts by Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and some congressional Republicans, the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Millions of Americans will continue to have access to quality health insurance and cannot be denied if they have a preexisting medical condition such as cancer, HIV, or high blood pressure.

If you currently have coverage through one of the ACA marketplaces, you have the opportunity to renew or choose a new one during the open enrollment period. Some Americans aren’t sure if they can enroll, but many are eligible for the affordable options it makes available. Financial assistance may also be available, depending on your income level. All the details can be found at Healthcare.gov.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has limited the enrollment period and cut funding for outreach to individuals who may need health insurance. Many LGBTQ people rely on the Affordable Care Act for life-saving care, and HRC is ensuring that you know the facts about open enrollment and how to #GetCovered.

Again, the deadline for enrollment through HealthCare.gov is December 15.

Trump Celebrates Raising Health Insurance Premiums On Poor Families

Donald Trump took to Twitter today to celebrate raising health insurance premiums for poor/low-income folks as well as cheer health insurance stocks plunging thanks to his decision to end paying subsidies for low-income Americans health insurance policies.

Health Insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the ObamaCare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall! Very proud of my Executive Order which will allow greatly expanded access and far lower costs for HealthCare. Millions of people benefit!

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, if the subsidies aren’t continued one million additional people will become uninsured in 2018, prices for insurance would rise by 20 to 25 percent, and insurers would drop out of some parts of the country.

According to an analysis by the Associated Press, almost 70% of those benefiting from the cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won last November.

Nine of the 10 states with the highest percentage of consumers benefiting from cost-sharing subsidies went for Trump.

Trump Announces No More Health Insurance Subsidies For Low-Income Families

Donald Trump has said for months that the Affordable Care Act is “imploding” but the fact of the matter is Trump is doing everything he can to sabotage the legislation.

The White House has now announced that the federal government will stop subsidy payments to insurance companies that help low-income Americans afford health insurance.

This comes just hours after Trump’s executive order allowing the sale of stripped-down, loosely regulated “junk” insurance policies.

From the New York Times:

The twin hits to the Affordable Care Act could unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, sending insurance premiums soaring and insurance companies fleeing from the health law’s online marketplaces. After Republicans failed to repeal the health law in Congress, Mr. Trump appears determined to dismantle it on his own.

Without the subsidies, insurance markets could quickly unravel. Insurers have said they will need much higher premiums and may pull out of the insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act if the subsidies were cut off. Known as cost-sharing reduction payments, the subsidies were expected to total $9 billion in the coming year and nearly $100 billion in the coming decade.

Lawmakers from both parties have urged the president to continue the payments.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 16 other attorneys general have announced they will stand up against the action by Trump to cut off subsidies for Obamacare. “Our coalition of states stands ready to sue if President Trump cuts them off.”

Trump Signs Executive Order To Make “Junk” Health Insurance Policies More Available

Donald Trump, frustrated with his inability to lead the GOP-controlled Congress to reform healthcare, today did exactly what he criticized President Obama for and signed an executive order circumventing the legislative process.

Trump’s executive order will allow the sale of cheaper, less regulated policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers than those mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

In other words, this is basically the health insurance version of buying a Yugo.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Trump’s order could eventually make it easier for small businesses to band together and buy insurance through new entities known as association health plans, which could be created by business and professional groups. A White House official said these health plans “could potentially allow American employers to form groups across state lines” — a goal championed by Mr. Trump and many other Republicans.

[snip]

Consumer groups and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, representing state officials, have opposed association health plans because they could be largely exempt from state regulation.

Association health plans can “cherry-pick healthy groups,” making it more difficult for less healthy groups to find affordable coverage, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners told Congress this year.

Some state regulators and insurers greeted the move with alarm and warned that by relaxing standards for association health plans and short-term policies, Mr. Trump would create low-cost insurance options for the healthy, driving up costs for the sick and destabilizing insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.

This will severely impact the LGBTQ community, especially those people with pre-existing conditions like HIV who won’t be able to access these junk policies intended primarily for younger, healthier people.

In offering these cheaper policies health care insurance providers will have to raise the premiums on regular insurance policies.

“Within a year, this would kill the market,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation.