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Queer Citizens Healthcare in Crisis

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By: Mylo Fisherman

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, is now the best time to take away LGBTQ+ health

care protections?

Although this is disappointing to say, it definitely is not shocking that the Trump administration is once again taking efforts to eliminate another policy that is in place to protect queer citizens.

This time it’s Obamacare’s Section 1557, which was a crucial section of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which prevents health care workers from discriminating against patients on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This was a key component of ACA that greatly increased access to healthcare for queer citizens. Queer citizens are not only disproportionately unable to see a doctor when necessary, they are also more susceptible to facing certain health problems. When the ACA was originally being written, health care advocates sought to address the disparities in care such as providers who outright refused to treat queer patients or give them substandard care. After the ACA passed, conservative groups sued to block the rule change, and the Trump administration has spent the last three years in office attempting to not only overturn Section 1557, but other nondiscrimination protections as well.

Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services issued an unsupported fact sheet last year claiming that it costs taxpayers $3.6 billion to guarantee equal access to health care. Additionally, Roger Severino, the current director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has defended ex-gay abuse, stating that LGBTQ+ people are acting “against your biology.” He has also opposed marriage equality and has said that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military “dishonors” past service members. These are just a few of the issues that exist in our current government that are obstacles in obtaining equality for queer citizens.

This move to eliminate Section 1557, which would allow hospitals to turn away queer patients, is particularly worrisome amid the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, recent research has indicated that queer citizens are more likely to have risk factors that make them more susceptible to coronavirus complications, such as a compromised immune system or respiratory illness. Now is definitely not the time to argue over whether or not these rights are necessary especially if they will put lives in danger.

Sharita Gruberg, the director of policy for the LGBTQ Research at CAP, said, “I’m really scared about what that means for testing, for treatment, for people’s comfort-seeking care. This is not the time we want people to avoid seeking care and treatment.” Additionally, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David stated, “Amid a global pandemic--which is already disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people--the Trump administration’s efforts to remove existing non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community is unacceptable, blatantly offensive, and cruel.”

This blatant disregard of a need for equal healthcare for all, especially during the coronavirus, is extremely disheartening. It shows the ruthless extent to which the government doesn't care about LGBTQ+ rights. It’s sad that even during a global pandemic, health care for some citizens is not a given. One phrase our country was founded on in 1776 was, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and it’s quite honestly hard to even fathom that the life part is currently up for debate for queer citizens.

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