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.
Yesterday @GovMikeDewine approved a state budget that includes language allowing medical providers to deny care to LGBTQ people.
Health care is a right. This new law is bad for Ohio, bad for Ohioans, bad for doctors and bad for medicine.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.