Health Equality Index 2012 cover

The "Healthcare Equality Index 2012," released by the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday, documented advancements in health coverage for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.

As Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said Tuesday, “One’s sexual orientation or gender identity should never affect the medical attention they receive.”  The campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index 2012 showed that the sentiment is a realistic goal, revealing groundbreaking progress in health coverage for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.

The sixth-annual survey found 57 percent of 407 U.S. health care facilities graded perfectly in its core criteria for LGBT patient-centered treatment, one of several improvements to non-discriminatory care documented in the report.

“It’s encouraging to see more institutions be recognized as leaders in LGBT health care equality,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at Tuesday’s conference at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. “The HEI shows we’ve made progress but that other 40 percent means that we have a long way to go.”

Sebelius said that the 173 facilities that fell short of Health Equality Index standards represent barriers that still exist in equal health care rights, including discrimination, health providers who “don’t understand” unique LGBT health needs and LGBT difficulties gaining health insurance through a partner or spouse.

Most of the news was positive among HEI participants, including:

  • A 40 percent increase in rated facilities nationwide from 2011, and a 162 percent increase in facilities receiving perfect scores;
  • 90 percent explicitly prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual patients;
  • 76 percent ban discrimination against transgender patients; and
  • 75 percent have written policies explicitly granting equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation asks facilities to fill out the online survey to evaluate themselves against established criteria for LGBT patient-centered care. All self-evaluations with documentation are listed in the index.

To register a perfect score on the survey, institutions must demonstrate: patient and visitation non-discrimination policies using the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” visitation policies granting same-sex couples and parents equal access, and training for key staff members in LGBT patient-centered care.

According to Griffin, 18 states have no health care facilities that have committed to LGBT equality and inclusion, and that studies show LGBT people don’t seek care at the same rate as heterosexuals “simply because they are afraid.”

He also stated, however, that the Human Rights Campaign provided free, in-depth training to more than 1,000 health administrators in LGBT health needs. HHS released Tuesday its first version of an annual review of its progress toward health findings.

“We not only met the goals that we set internally last year but went even further to improve LGBT access to care and coverage,” Sebelius said.

A full version of the Healthcare Equality Index can be read here.