LGBTQ+ healthcare protections reinstated, advocates call for more action

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 6:00 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Healthcare protections for the LGBTQ+ community are reinstated following an announcement from the Biden Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Sam Cloud, president of Tucson Pride.

The Biden administration announced healthcare providers and organizations getting federal funding cannot discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or identity. The move is a win for LGBTQ+ advocates, though they are asking for more protections with insurers, pre-existing conditions and who has to follow the law.

Dr. Jess Hensel, a family physician at El Rio Health, said the move is a good first step, but more should be done.

“I’ve been really privileged to be able to provide gender-affirming care for these patients,” Hensel said.

She said gender-affirming healthcare, like hormone blockers and replacement therapy, as well as using their preferred pronouns is imperative to her patients’ health. She saw a reluctance in patients during the Trump administration seeking out these services and general care.

“I had a number of patients who were afraid to come in, or even afraid to have certain diagnoses on their assessment and plan,” she said.

Trans rights have made headlines around the nation as several states push through anti-trans sports laws. Several bills in Arizona have been introduced restricting trans rights, like requiring only male or female on state documents. Another, SB1511, would make it a crime for physicians like Hensel to perform gender-affirming practices on minors. There has not been much movement since the bills were introduced.

“It is concerning that they have been proposed,” Hensel said. “I would continue to provide the care that is most appropriate for my patients.”

For LGBTQ+ advocates, it is one of many reasons they want the Biden administration to do more to protect their rights, especially in healthcare.

“Our rights are on the line all the time, and every time one of these bills is introduced, there’s fear across the community,” Cloud said.

HHS said about a quarter of LGBTQ+ people who have been discriminated against postpone or avoid getting medical care.

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