Healthcare is something basic. Most people do not think of going to the doctor as a trial. It is just a part of life: check-ups, vaccinations, the never pleasant emergency room visit. Everyone needs access to these things, but when you are trans*, you may or may not get adequate care due to the prejudice of healthcare providers. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will help to protect the rights of trans* people in obtaining both insurance and medical care.
Signed into law in March of 2010 by President Obama, the PPACA is an extensive overhaul of the healthcare system in the United States with provisions aimed at ensuring coverage, making healthcare more affordable, and safeguarding patient’s rights. You can learn more about these provisions on this timeline of implementation. LGBTQ* rights organizations have been pushing the Department of Health and Human Services to address how the PPACA would affect the care of LGBTQ* people, recently getting an answer: “We agree that… sex discrimination prohibition extends claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity” (Flock of US News).
In 2014, the Patient’s Bill of Rights will go into effect which will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Being trans* is often considered a pre-existing condition, so this provision will ensure trans* people can obtain insurance coverage. It will also ban any discrimination from healthcare providers based on gender identity, offering recourse for any trans* person who is denied care. According to Merisa Carroll of The Nation (whose article I highly recommend reading), one in five trans* people have experienced denial of care based on their trans* identity.
These protections are so important with stories coming out about a trans* man in New York who was not notified of his diagnosis of breast cancer and a trans* woman who was denied lifesaving measures by firefighters in Washington DC after a car accident. These are scary stories. I would like to think that if I am ever injured or am in need of medical care, a doctor would not refuse to treat me simply because I am trans*, but that is not the truth. So make sure to know your rights when it comes to healthcare and insurance coverage so you can protect yourself. Knowledge is power. I would recommend also reading the following articles for some different perspectives.
Marisa Carroll of The Nation
Susan Donaldson James of ABC News