Despite political progress on a number of fronts, the inequality in day-to-day life for many LGBT people remains difficult. Indeed, many feel the need to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity when seeing a medical professional for fear of discrimination and being deprived proper care and treatment. As indicated in a 2011 National Institute of Medicine report, as well as a HealthyPeople.gov web page set up by the US Department of Health and Human Services, that fear is not unfounded – leading to pronounced health disparities with substantial consequences. For instance, the National LGBT Cancer Network reports that LGBT people have a “cluster of risk factors” that cause a disproportionate cancer burden for the LGBT community.
The Human Rights Campaign has been tracking and rating how American hospitals treat LGBT patients through their Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) and on Tuesday, at a press conference with HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC., HRC President Chad Griffin announced that the number of hospitals striving to treat LGBT people with equality, respect and dignity is on the rise. Over 90% of the 407 hospitals that voluntarily participated in the HEI survey explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGB patients and 76% ban discrimination against transgender patients. Additionally, about 75% of now have a written policy explicitly granting equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents – something mandated by President Obama on April 15, 2010 for any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding.
Griffin sees progress: “Just a few short years ago the healthcare industry wasn’t having conversations about LGBT healthcare equality,” Griffin said in a statement. “Now, thanks to advocacy by the LGBT community and some standout leaders, growing numbers of healthcare providers are making an explicit commitment to treat all patients with dignity and respect. The healthcare industry is beginning to heed the call for fairness and compassion.”
Here’s the press release about the HEI with more details:
The report details the results of the most recent Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. This year’s survey found a 40 percent increase in rated facilities, which totaled 407 nationwide. It also found an impressive 162 percent increase in the number of facilities achieving the status of “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality,” special recognition given to facilities earning a perfect rating by meeting four core criteria for LGBT patient-centered care laid out in the HEI.
The HEI helps hospitals assess themselves against established best practices and ensure that they are complying with requirements for non-discrimination. These include a requirement issued last year by The Joint Commission, the largest accrediting body for U.S. hospitals, calling on all accredited facilities to extend non-discrimination protection to LGBT patients.
Over 90 percent of HEI 2012 participants explicitly prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual patients, and 76 percent ban discrimination against transgender patients. Additionally, about 75 percent of respondents have a written policy explicitly granting equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents. This represents a significant increase since the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules in 2011 requiring all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding – nearly every hospital in America – to protect the visitation rights of LGBT people.
For the first time, the HEI additionally required participating facilities to document that high-level managers in key work areas had received expert training in LGBT health needs. As a result, more than 1,000 healthcare administrators across the country participated in training provided through the HEI.
“I commend the LGBT and healthcare communities for the progress made and I am proud to be part of an administration that has a historic record of accomplishment for the LGBT community,” said Sec. Sebelius. “We will continue to take action to ensure that LGBT Americans get equal treatment in healthcare settings and that all patients are treated with the dignity they deserve.”
Studies, including a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, have shown that the LGBT community faces health disparities and healthcare discrimination and that many LGBT Americans are concerned about experiencing bias in healthcare. But things are changing, as the HEI 2012 documents.
“Equal and inclusive healthcare saves lives,” added Griffin. “Increasing numbers of hospitals across the country are working to ensure LGBT patients receive care free of prejudice and discrimination. We thank the HEI 2012 participants for their hard work and dedication to ensuring healthcare equality for all patients.”
* Lists of survey respondents are not identical from year to year.
** Training criterion differed significantly prior to 2012 survey
View the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 2012 at www.hrc.org/hei.