Progressive groups release ‘Voices for Equity’ report on transgender access to healthcare

LGBT Americans are no strangers to the healthcare debate — but for transgender citizens, what protections exist, and how can healthcare providers and policy makers ensure that trans patients receive the best service?

These questions and more are addressed in “Voices for Equity: How the experience of transgender Georgians can inform the implementation of nondiscrimination provisions in the Affordable Care Act,” a new report released today by Georgia Equality, Georgians for a Healthy Future and The Health Initiative.

The report will be formally presented tonight at the Phillip Rush Center during the TransActionGA Healthcare Town Hall. Trans activists will also be on hand to share their experiences during a panel discussion and Q&A with audience members.

“This past year, we knew that the federal government was going to release guidelines for including gender identity and gender stereotyping under the definition of sex-related nondiscrimination protections of the ACA,” Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told Georgia Voice. “We wanted to not only make sure that individuals who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming knew about these new protections, but to understand for ourselves how people experience discrimination in a healthcare setting based on their gender identity. That’s where the idea of the report came from.”

According to the report, one in three transgender people have been turned away from healthcare providers due to their gender identities, said Chanel Haley, gender inclusion organizer for Georgia Equality. Results shown in “Voices for Equity” are based on a 2016 online survey, four focus groups and data from the “Report of the 2015 US Transgender Survey.”

“The ACA has been successful in opening up health coverage and care to so many Georgians, but this report shows that there is more work to be done,” Laura Colbert, executive director of GHF, said in a statement. “Policymakers, advocates and healthcare providers should work with the transgender community to ensure that the barriers identified in this report are addressed.”

According to the report, Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits discrimination on a number of factors, including gender identity and sex stereotyping, which were cemented on a final rule issued in May 2016 by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to statistics, the report includes feedback from the focus groups and survey participants. One participant relayed an experience in which they were tired of primary care providers assuming all transgender patients want is hormones.

“That might not even be what’s going on with me now,” the participant said. “I need you to take care of the rest of me. I need you to take care of my primary care stuff, my mental health stuff, all of that, because hormones are not it.”

“Voices for Equity” also shares recommendations for state and federal policy makers. For the Georgia General Assembly, it’s suggested to enact statewide prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; pursue legislation to limit the out-of-pocket costs consumers have to pay for prescription drugs; enact policies that encourage or require licensed healthcare professionals to be trained in LGBT cultural and clinical competency; and prohibit the practice of conversion therapy.

“The Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557 nondiscrimination protections are an important step forward in ensuring that all consumers have equitable access to health coverage and care,” the report says. “The initial implementation of the 1557 rule shows promise for protecting transgender and LGB individuals from discrimination; however, changes in the way the protections are interpreted or enforced may slow the progress made thus far.”

TransActionGA Healthcare Town Hall
Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
Phillip Rush Center Annex, 1530 DeKalb Avenue, Atlanta