New York City’s LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights is a beacon of hope in the midst of administrative mayhem.
Despite the Republican Party’s failed attempts to formally repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the government’s neglect of Obama-era healthcare policies will likely have debilitating consequences for the LGBTQ community. But even as we continue to resist in the face of President Trump’s trans military ban and his determination to “let Obamacare fail,” we decided to highlight something positive: New York City’s ongoing effort to protect the health and wellness of its LGBTQ population.
In June of this year, Mayor Bill De Blasio’s administration released the city’s first ever LGBTQ Health Care Bill Of Rights — a series of protections aimed at guaranteeing that the city’s LGBTQ population continues to have access to health care that is safe, affordable, and judgement-free. Not only does the Bill of Rights’ issuance set New York City apart as a leader in protecting the healthcare rights of its LGBTQ citizens, it also reminds healthcare providers and their staff that they are legally required to offer care regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
The Bill of Rights is comprised of 10 points that seek to reaffirm a person’s legal right to access healthcare without being discriminated against on the basis of one’s sexual orientation, gender identification, or gender expression.
With the release of the Bill of Rights, the city’s LGBTQ patients are now better informed and supported in their right to:
- Be treated with dignity, respect and professionalism by all providers and all staff.
- Receive compassionate, judgement-free and comprehensive care that is mindful of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
- Respectful discussions with providers about health and healthcare needs, including sexual history and current sex life.
- Have gender identity and gender expression recognized, affirmed, documented, and accommodated.
- Clear explanations of requests for health information.
- Clear explanations of all medical procedures and risks, and the right to choose or refuse any treatment.
- Access health insurance coverage and benefits without discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Choose who will make medical decisions for them if the patient is unable. If patient is a minor, they have the right to have their voice heard and best interests included in these decisions.
- Decide who may and may not visit if a patient is admitted to a healthcare facility.
- Privacy and confidentiality.
An Overarching Effort to Protect and Educate for Healthcare Equality
The LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights is part of the city’s broader effort at providing health and medical support for its queer community. The Bill of Rights came about as a consequence of the city’s role in New York State’s Ending the Epidemic initiative — the goal of which is to reduce new HIV infections in the city to fewer than 600 by 2020.
The four core objectives of Ending the Epidemic are to:
- Increase access to HIV prevention services, including PEP and PrEP
- Promote innovative and optimized treatment
- Enhance methods for tracking HIV transmission through conducting HIV phylogenetic testing at the NYC Public Health Laborator
- Improve sexual health equity for all New Yorkers, of which the Health Care Bill of Rights is one component.
Another new program aimed at reducing discrimination towards LGBTQ patients in healthcare settings is the Bare it All campaign, which encourages New Yorkers to be open and honest about their gender expression, gender identity, sexual behavior, sexual histories, and drug use. The ethos of the campaign is that medical treatment and attention shouldn’t be a painful or judgmental experience.
Given the current state of the presidential administration, it’s never been more important for state- and city-level policy makers to prioritize the needs of marginalized groups. As New York City continues to implement new initiatives that target at-risk communities, it emerges as a leader in LGBTQ healthcare access protections and remains a beacon for equitable municipal policy around the country.
To find an LGBTQ-affirming healthcare provider near you, visit lighthouse.lgbt.