Public Comment: Conscience Rule
By Adam P. Romero and Jocelyn Samuels
The issue: In May 2019, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a final rule that strengthens protections for health care workers who refuse to provide health services for religious or moral reasons. At least eight lawsuits were filed to challenge the validity of the rule.
The impact on LGBT people: Denials of health care authorized or encouraged by the rule could worsen access and utilization of health care for the 13 million LGBT people age 13 and older in the US. The rule could also exacerbate health disparities facing the LGBT population, such as a disproportionately high prevalence of psychological distress, depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicidal ideation and attempts.
Brief summary: The final rule failed to properly assess the potential harm imposed by the rule, particularly for LGBT patients. LGBT people experience high levels of rejection and discrimination in health care, which are commonly motivated by religion. The experience and expectation of rejection and discrimination are “minority stressors,” which adversely impact LGBT people’s health and well-being.