LGBTQ people face discrimination in health care. The GOP wants to make it worse.


A new report shows that LGBTQ people postpone or avoid medical treatment because of discrimination.

More than one in three LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination in the past year, according to a study released on Tuesday.

LGBTQ people also continue to face barriers to health care, including concerns about discrimination and an inability to afford treatment, according to the study's survey, which included interviews with more than 1,500 LGBTQ adults conducted in June.

The survey was conducted by the Center for American Progress and NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan research group.

According to the survey, 15% of LGBTQ people said they postponed or avoided medical treatment altogether out of fear of discrimination. For transgender people, that rate doubled to three in 10. According to the study, between 7% and 14% of LGBTQ Americans have had negative health care experiences, such as a doctor being visibly uncomfortable because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, unwanted physical contact, harsh or abusive language, or providers refusing to recognize their family members.

Nearly half of transgender survey respondents said they had been intentionally misgendered while seeking medical treatment, and one-third of transgender respondents said they have had to teach their doctor about transgender people to receive proper medical care. Eighteen percent of transgender respondents said their doctor or provider would not see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity, while 19% said their doctor or provider had "used harsh or abusive language" during their treatment, and 20% said doctors "had been physically rough or abusive" with them.

Cost is another significant barrier for LGBTQ Americans trying to access health care. Twenty-nine percent of respondents saying they had postponed or gone without medical treatment when sick or injured because they couldn't afford it. One-quarter of LGBTQ people said they delayed preventive screenings because they were worried about the cost of doing so.

On top of fears about discrimination and the cost of care, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on LGBTQ people's physical and mental health. Six in 10 respondents said they felt down, depressed, hopeless, or had trouble sleeping because of the virus. Two-thirds said they felt anxious that they or a loved one would get the virus.

While LGBTQ people struggle to afford health care, Republicans are trying to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Barrett could be the deciding vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health coverage to 20 million Americans. After three senators were diagnosed the coronavirus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would suspend floor action until Oct. 19. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee is still scheduled to meet on Oct. 12 for Barrett's confirmation hearings.

On Nov. 10, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in California v. Texas, a case that will decide the future of President Barack Obama's signature health care law. Eighteen Republican attorneys general have already challenged the Affordable Care Act. In June, the Trump administration argued that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the court must strike down all of the law.

The Trump administration has attempted to restrict LGBTQ people's health care by moving forward with two rules. In May of last year, the Trump administration announced a rule that would allow health care providers to deny medical care to patients under the umbrella of "religious freedom." Advocacy groups opposed the rule, which they said would lead to discrimination against LGBTQ patients. A federal judge struck down the rule last year.

In June, the Trump administration finalized a second rule that would roll back protections for LGBTQ people in the Affordable Care Act. In August, a federal judge stopped the rule one day before it was supposed to go into effect.

The Trump administration's "religious conscience" rule would have made life more difficult for couples like Krista and Jami Contreras, who said a medical professional once denied them treatment because of their sexual orientation. When the lesbian couple brought their baby to her first doctor's appointment, the pediatrician they had chosen, Vesna Roi, refused to see them.

Roi later wrote a letter to the couple explaining her decision.

"After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients," Roi wrote in the 2015 letter. "Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.