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June 30, 2011

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HRC Report: Record Number of Facilities Working Toward LGBT Healthcare Equality

Work Remains to Achieve Healthcare Equality for LGBT Patients

6/30/2011

Washington – A report released today by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation found an increasing number of U.S. healthcare facilities are working toward a more welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients, however work remains to be done to end discrimination against LGBT people in America’s healthcare system.

The report details the results of the most recent Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. This year’s survey found that nearly 90 percent of respondents include sexual orientation in their Patient’s Bill of Rights and/or Non-Discrimination Policy, but only 60 percent include gender identity in these policies.  Additionally, only 49 percent of respondents have an explicitly inclusive visitation policy granting equal access for same-sex couples and 52 percent have such a policy inclusive of same-sex parents. In response to a memorandum from President Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services issued  rules in January of this year requiring all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding – nearly every hospital in America – to protect the visitation rights of LGBT people.  Additionally The Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals, has new standards that encourage LGBT-inclusive policies.

“Over the past year landmark rules and regulations regarding LGBT healthcare equality have been introduced, but there is work left to be done for healthcare facilities to fulfill the spirit of these policies,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Studies have shown in sad and stunning clarity the health disparities faced by the LGBT community and discrimination is all too present in the nation’s hospitals.  This is a healthcare emergency that must be addressed in order to save lives.”

In March, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report highlighting health disparities and detailing the need for more federal research and data collection on the health of LGBT people.  The authors of the report recommended collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal health surveys and just yesterday HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the department will integrate questions on sexual orientation into national data collection efforts by 2013 and begin a process to collect information on gender identity.

"The new Joint Commission requirements and the IOM report underscore the need to provide equitable, knowledgeable care to LGBT patients and their families – and the HEI is a great guide for any facility pursuing this important goal. As a top performer from the HEI's inception, UCSF is delighted to see more facilities use its guidance to ensure that they're providing the best possible care to all," said Mark Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center and the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. "I encourage my colleagues across the country to make these policies part of their culture. Equal care is the essence of health care."

The HEI 2011 reports on the voluntary participation of a record 87 survey respondents, representing 375 facilities nationwide. As facilities transition to more LGBT-friendly policies and procedures, the HEI can serve as an organizational assessment tool by assisting hospitals in modifying their policies, and can help hospitals comply with Joint Commission standards addressing non-discrimination, and new HHS regulations on visitation.

“Quality healthcare saves lives, but too many LGBT Americans are denied that care or are too afraid to seek it because of discrimination and intimidation,” added Solmonese.  “We are making progress, but we have a lot of work left to do.  The HEI is a great starting point for healthcare facilities and professionals that desire to provide quality healthcare to all Americans.  We thank the HEI 2011 participants for their hard work and dedication to ensuring healthcare equality for all patients.”

The HEI helps LGBT patients find quality healthcare free of prejudice and discrimination and empowers patients to encourage healthcare professionals to embrace LGBT healthcare equality.  As a companion to the Index, HRC produced two videos in order to show the difficulties LGBT patients may face and to help healthcare administrators understand why creating an environment welcoming of LGBT patients and their families is the right thing to do.  Both videos can be viewed online.

In conjunction with the HEI report, the HRC Foundation has released a companion piece. A resource for those interested in Healthcare Equality Index participation, this document serves as a "Call to Action" for healthcare administrators, outlining the business incentives for participating.

View the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 2011 and this companion resource on the HEI website.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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