In a recent American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP) blog discussing the importance of respecting transgender patients, Dr. Natalie Hinchcliffe pointed out that family physicians, their staff and other health professionals can be leaders in helping patients receive appropriate care according to their gender identity.
Many transgender patients face a multitude of barriers, the blog said. Family and friends, co-workers and supervisors and health care providers may discriminate in overt and passive ways, leading to anxiety and depression. Microaggressions such as refusing to call a person by the identified gender or name are not unusual.
Discrimination by insurers and health providers was prohibited by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A riling in December by U.S District Judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth, Texas, however, blocked the ACA regulations regarding discrimination against transgender patients as well as women who had undergone an abortion in the past, blocking efforts to prevent doctors and hospitals from refusing treatment to patients who had gender reassignment surgery or women who had previously had an abortion.
"The judge's ruling is alarming," Hinchcliffe wrote in the blog. "As family doctors, we know the importance of recognizing our patients' diverse backgrounds and experiences. Caring for transgender patients is no different. We must strive to protect the right of all our patients to have insurance coverage and thus access to health care – free of discrimination. It is our responsibility."