The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation has published its Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) 2016 report to help patients find health care facilities that are non-discriminatory toward members of the LGBT community and their families.
According to the report, when HEI was launched in 2007, only 78 major hospitals participated in the HEI national survey. That number increased to 568 this year, with more than 99 percent of these facilities proving to have fully LGBT-inclusive patient and employment non-discrimination policies and equal visitation policies.
Additionally, 496 of the facilities went a step further and met additional requirements, designating them a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” -- up from 427 in 2014.
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) 2016 is a tool used to evaluate the policies and practices of health care facilities around the country as they relate to the equity and inclusion of their LGBT patients, visitors and employees.
“No one facing health concerns should also have to worry about receiving inequitable or substandard care because of their LGBT status,” according to the report. “Yet it is clear that many LGBT Americans have exactly these concerns when seeking health care, which intensify whatever worries they may have about their health.”
In a Lambda Legal study, When Health Care Isn’t Caring, 73 percent of transgender respondents and 29 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents indicated that they believed medical professionals would treat them differently because of their LGBT status.
The study also revealed that 52 percent of transgender respondents and 9 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents believed medical personnel would refuse to provide medical services altogether because of their LGBT status.
The four core principles -- known as the Core Four Leader Criteria -- are the policies and practices health providers must adhere to in order to support the HEI. The first three principles require the presence of policies ensuring that LGBT patients, families and employees are welcomed without discrimination. The fourth principle calls for staff training to help implement the policies and ensure compliance.
These principles are: Patient Non-Discriminatory Policies, Equal Visitation Policies, Employment Non-Discrimination Policies and Training in LGBT Patient-Centered Care.
Patient Non-Discriminatory Policies require “a written patient non-discriminatory policy (or patients’ bill of rights) that includes both ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’”
“A patient non-discrimination policy is only effective, of course, if patients and staff know about it,” according to the report. “Therefore, the HEI requires survey participants to document not only that they have an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy, but also that they make it readily accessible to patients and that they communicate it to their staff.”
Likewise, Equal Visitation Policies must be written and allow same-sex couples, same-sex parents and other LGBT persons to visit their loved ones in health care settings.
The vast majority of facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments across the country are compliant with this policy. President Barack Obama directed the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services to develop regulations protecting the visitation rights of all patients after a lesbian was denied the right to visit her dying partner in 2010.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Policy criterion calls for an equal employment opportunity policy that includes both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” and covers all conditions of employment, including hiring, promotion, termination and compensation.
Federal law doesn’t protect employees from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, only 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation; and 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted non-discrimination laws based on gender identity.
“This Core Four criterion calls on health care facilities to protect their LGBT employees from discrimination regardless of state non-discrimination laws,” according to the report. “LGBT staff members not only deserve a discrimination-free workplace, but they also informally educate co-workers, provide valuable guidance to facility leadership and serve as ambassadors to LGBT communities.”
States leading the HEI Index with 20 or more facilities listed as Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality are California, New York, Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania.