In April, President Obama ordered federal health officials to create guidelines requiring hospitals to provide equal rights for same-sex partners. Obama instructed that same-sex partner rights include full visitation and decision-making powers. Hospitals will have to comply with these new rules and treat same-sex partners equally.
The rule can be enforced for any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements, providing plenty of incentive for hospitals to change their rules instead of risking losing government money.
But over 40 percent of the largest hospitals in the U.S. still lack policies protecting same-sex partners. The Healthcare Equality Index, a Human Rights Campaign study, examined the policies of the 200 largest hospitals in the U.S. and found that many don’t include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination rules. The lack of a clear policy regarding LGBT patients leaves same-sex partners at risk of being denied visitation or medical decision-making abilities. Even after Obama’s order, same-sex partners are not guaranteed equal rights in hospitals.
Of the 200 hospitals studied, only 42 were rated as top performers in LGBT healthcare equality. These hospitals took extra steps to provide same-sex partner rights. Most of the top performing hospitals were run by Kaiser Permanente, a provider with a history of supporting the LGBT community and a perfect score on the Healthcare Equality Index.
But many other hospitals lag behind in providing equal rights for same-sex partners. Obama’s support of equal rights in hospitals for same-sex partners is important but it’s not enough. While hospitals lag in providing the protections for same-sex partners, LGBT people could face heartbreaking discrimination.
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