We're all aware that the political landscape these days is scary, to say the least. As I write this, political extremists across the country are attacking the rights of LGBTQ+ people in school, at work, and in the doctor's office.
What you might not know is that we once had strong nationwide protections against discrimination in health care. The Trump administration tried to destroy those protections - but by acting before midnight on October 3 (tonight), you have the opportunity to bring them back.
The Health Care Rights Law, also known as Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, provides protection from discrimination in health care and health insurance coverage on the basis of sex. The Biden administration has proposed a regulation implementing the Health Care Rights Law that would clarify that these protections mean doctors have to treat LGBTQ+ patients with respect, that insurance carriers have to cover PrEP and other essential medications, and that no one should be denied health care or health insurance coverage because of who they are or whom they love.
As a health care researcher and advocate, I know just how much these protections mean to LGBTQ+ people, our families, and our community. Far too many people in our community are still turned away by doctors, stigmatized, or mistreated when we seek care. A 2022 survey from the Center for American Progress found that over one-third of LGBTQ+ people who previously experienced discrimination said they avoided going to the doctor when they needed to because they were afraid of encountering discrimination again. This vicious cycle makes us less likely to get the health care we need, which robs us of time to shine, time to love, and time to be ourselves.
We must act to stop discrimination. Anti-LGBTQ+ extremists are putting up a cruel fight to block the Health Care Rights Law, and they won't stop with health care: we've already seen that their ultimate goals include getting rid of marriage equality and bringing archaic, anti-gay "conversion therapy" back into the mainstream.
These extremists' latest ploy is attacking gender-affirming care. They think that if they can exploit misinformation about transgender people, they can divide and weaken our community's strong stand against exclusion and hate.
For instance, fringe pundits have recently redoubled their efforts to stoke fear about gender-affirming care by spreading falsehoods about a routine publication from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
The fact is that these evidence-based standards for safe and effective gender-affirming health care give doctors and other health professionals the clear and up-to-date information they need to develop individualized, age-appropriate plans for their patients. Doctors use this detailed analysis of the research and medical evidence to stay on top of the latest science and best practices. But anti-LGBTQ+ extremists have latched onto these new standards to push misinformation and try to deny transgender people the care they need.
Make no mistake: these attacks won't stop with trans people. Each of us is in danger as long as political ideology, not scientific facts, is driving the national response to whether we need nondiscrimination protections in health care.
We have an opportunity to make our voices heard. Do you want federal law to prohibit discrimination in health care and health insurance on the basis of who we are? Let the federal government know. Do you want LGBTQ+ people to be specifically protected under the law, so that we can get the health care services that we need to lead our best lives? Me too. Let the federal government know!
Dr. Kellan E. Baker is the Executive Director and Chief Learning Officer of the Whitman-Walker Institute, one of the country's premiere organizations focused on advancing the health and wellbeing of people facing barriers to quality care, particularly LGBTQ people and people living with HIV, through the strategic integration of clinical expertise, cutting-edge research, quality education, and effective policy change.
Views expressed in The Advocate's opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, Equal Pride.