On Thursday, July 11, HRC will release the 2013 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) at the headquarters of the Veterans Affairs Administration (VA) in Washington, D.C. The HEI annually surveys healthcare facilities nationwide to assess their policies and practices from an LGBT standpoint, offering them free expert training to enhance their knowledge of LGBT patients' needs. The event at the VA will highlight much-expanded participation in the HEI, in which 121 VA medical centers took part, and will review the extent to which participating facilities have embraced nondiscriminatory, welcoming care.
The HEI release event will also feature Leon Rodriguez, Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Rodriguez and OCR have been very much a part of the movement to ensure healthcare free from discrimination for all patients, including LGBT people and their families. OCR has published guidance and has worked with LGBT advocates to make LGBT patients aware of their rights and resources--particularly under the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform law.
For example, in July 2012 OCR confirmed that the non-discrimination provision in the Affordable Care Act includes protection from discrimination based on gender identity and sex stereotyping. This provision, Section 1557, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age in federally funded health programs or activities, which include most hospitals and clinics.
OCR affirmed by letter that HHS interprets Section 1557’s prohibition of “sex discrimination” to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sex stereotyping or gender identity. OCR is currently accepting and investigating sex discrimination complaints, including complaints from LGBT individuals of harassment based on stereotypical notions of how individuals of each gender should look or act.
This policy is a significant step forward for LGBT people, but there is more work to do. The effectiveness of these protections depends on making sure LGBT patients and their families are aware and empowered. To learn more about the Healthcare Equality Index and HRC’s work to raise awareness of protections for LGBT people in healthcare, visit www.hrc.org/hei.
If you believe that you’ve experienced discrimination or want to learn more about protections for LGBT people under the Affordable Care Act, visit http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/resources/laws/section1557_questions_answers.html