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How Do Arizona Hospitals Rank In Healthcare Equality For LGBT Community?

Published: Friday, April 1, 2016 - 4:53pm
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(Photo courtesy of Human Rights Campaign Foundations)
Healthcare Equality Index

In 2010, President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum, and soon after lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families were guaranteed the right to visit their family members in the hospital.

The memorandum was directed to the Department of Health and Human Services, and it came after Janice Langbehn was kept away from her partner’s hospital room when she died while she and her family were on vacation in Florida.

The department issued new regulations that went into effect January 2011 requiring all hospitals participating in the Medicaid and Medicare programs to allow patients to select the visitors of their choice. Those changes were tied to Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Nationally, 568 hospitals and healthcare facilities voluntarily took the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Healthcare Equality Index this year, said Tari Hanneman, author of the Health Equality Index. On top of that, HRC independently surveyed almost 1,000 hospitals around the country to see if they had three key policies in place: Inclusive visitation policies, patient non-discrimination policies and employment non-discrimination policies.

They found that only 56 percent of hospitals and healthcare facilities that they surveyed had a non-discrimination policy in place that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Any healthcare facility that wants Medicaid money, which is pretty much all of them, has to allow patients to have the visitors of their choice,” Hanneman said. “And they are not allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

But she said discrimination in healthcare against the LGBT community doesn’t stop with visitation.

Hanneman said healthcare facilities can do a lot to create a more welcoming, inclusive environment for LGBT patients, like adjusting the language on an intake form or being careful not to misgender a transgender person.

Those are important steps to take. HRC reports that 56 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people report experiences of serious discrimination in healthcare, and 70 percent of transgender people report serious discrimination.

“A healthcare setting is not a place where people need to be afraid,” Hanneman said. “It leads to people not coming out to their providers or not even going to a provider if they feel they’re not going to be welcomed as who they are.”

In Arizona, though, Hanneman said she has seen some progress.

This year, five Arizona hospitals and healthcare facilities were recognized as leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality: Abrazo Scottsdale Campus, Adelante Healthcare, the VA Health Care Systems in Northern Arizona and Southern Arizona and El Rio Community Health Center’s two locations in Tucson.

Many of the larger healthcare providers here, including Banner Health and the Mayo Clinic, have system-wide non-discrimination policies, Hanneman said.

Now, the Human Rights Campaign is asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to do the same thing they did with visitation rights with patient non-discrimination. They want CMS to make it a condition of participation in Medicaid and Medicare that hospitals cannot discriminate against somebody because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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