The United States has over 9,00,000 lakh cases of coronavirus in the country. The cases have continued to grow and more and more people are in need of medical care. During such a time, a rule by the Health and Human Services department is being passed that allows doctors to discriminate against LGBTQI people and deny them access to health-care.
The rule that is being passed scraps the Obama-era policy that was in place to protect LGTBQ people from discrimination. In a time when the USA is battling against a pandemic, this rule will is not only discriminatory but is putting lives of LGBTQI members in danger.
“I’m really scared about what that means for testing, for treatment, for people’s comfort-seeking care. This is not the time we want people to avoid seeking care and treatment,” said Sharita Gruberg, who works on LGBTQI issues for CAP.
The Trump administration is almost on its way to complete the rewrite of section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. The law was made in response to activists and health-care providers who reported that LGBTQI people were being turned away from health-care services and bullied for seeking health-care. It also offered protection to transgender people. In 2016 a court blocked these protections because of backlash from religious groups. The Trump administration has tried to weaken these protections further ever since.
Many LGBTQI people do not have ties with their families and due to social discrimination, there are many jobs that are inaccessible to them. This pushes many of them to the margins of society where they are more likely to contract illnesses. According to an American national survey, 65 percent of LGBTQ adults have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or HIV*. This makes accessing healthcare, especially in these times, necessary. Though due to the discrimination they face many LGBTQ people cannot access care services.
A survey by the Centre of American Progress has found that 29% of transgender adults in the USA have said that health-care professionals have refused to see them because of their gender identity. LGBTQ people are seven times more likely to avoid visits to doctors because of the discrimination they have faced previously. According to reports, 60% of LGB people and 70% of trans and gender non-conforming people reported refusal of care, harsh language, and physical roughness because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. HRC Foundation’s analysis of the 2018 BRFSS, shows 17% of LGBTQ adults do not have any kind of health insurance coverage, 23% of LGBTQ adults of color, 22% of transgender adults and 32% of transgender adults of color have no form of health coverage. This could lead to economic hardships on the community and make them a high-risk group during this pandemic.
“I’m scared to say this out loud, but I’m afraid that trans people will face things like being deprioritized for ventilators or for care,” Bre Kidman, a non-binary candidate for US Senate in Maine, said to Vox
HHS declined to comment on the possibility of a pending rule and has said that there are no protections that are being scrapped as it is only upholding the 2016 judgment.
*Findings from a nationally representative survey commissioned and designed by CAP and fielded by Knowledge Networks, which surveyed 1,864 individuals about their experiences with health insurance and health care.