It's National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week

March 22, 2022 Swedish Health Team

 

[5 minute read]

In this article: 

  • This week highlights the importance of all aspects of LGBTQ health care: mental, physical and sexual. 

  • This year's theme, Live Out Loud, encourages everyone to speak openly about LGBTQ health. 

  • The week is a time to raise awareness, help end stigmas and ensure access to inclusive, affirming health care. 

It’s National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week March 21 through 25. This year’s theme is Live Out Loud and marks 20 years of the annual awareness week. The theme selected by the National Coalition for LGBTQ Health, “encourages everyone to speak openly about LGBTQ health, providing an umbrella under which to discuss and raise awareness of mental health, trans health, and ending stigma through accessible, affirming, and inclusive healthcare services so that everyone can fully live their truth and a healthy life.”  

At Swedish, we are working to ensure we provide safe, compassionate, and high-quality care to every patient, regardless of gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. At the same time, it’s no secret that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) people encounter discrimination in employment, relationship recognition, insurance coverage, and health care on a regular basis due to systemic inequities. LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to face barriers to accessing health care, with LGBTQIA+ Black, Indigenous, and People of Color facing even wider disparities 

“This week is a reminder for healthcare providers to learn and grow with the LGBTQIA+ community,” says Peter Mann-King, MSHCPM, program manager of Swedish’s LGBTQI+ Program. Swedish has made some progress in the past few years, and we acknowledge we have a lot of work still to do. Through our work at Swedish and our community partnerships, we are determined to improve access to care so that every member of the LGBTQIA+ community can receive the health care they need and deserve. 

National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week falls during Transgender Month of Action for Healthcare Equality; this year’s recognition is especially poignant, with Washingtonians winning a recent major victory around LGBTQIA+ health care. In May 2021, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the Gender Affirming Treatment Act (SB5313). The legislation prevents Washington state insurance companies from classifying medically necessary physician-prescribed gender affirming procedures and treatments as cosmetic and categorically denying or limiting access to physician-prescribed gender affirming services. Under the new law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2022, health care determinations by insurance carriers must be made in consultation with medical providers who are experienced in administering gender affirming care and treatment and gender affirming care can be prescribed to Two spirits, binary and non-binary transgender, intersex and other gender diverse individuals.  

Mattie Mooney, senior program coordinator of Transgender Health Services at Swedish explains how SB5313 closes many unjust loopholes that have been used to deny the trans community necessary and prescribed health services and medical procedures.    

 “The bill really seeks to solidify some of the laws that we already have now that secure trans healthcare for the trans citizens of Washington state. What we were seeing is that insurance companies were getting around a lot of those laws by creating unilateral exclusions for care. For example, facial feminization surgery was not covered because it is cosmetic,” says Mattie. There were restrictive hoops created that our community had to jump through to prove that they needed and deserved the care that a doctor prescribed to them. And so, what 5313 does is clarify that by saying these unilateral exclusions aren't lawful and in fact are discriminatory. 

Ultimately, says Mattie, the bill will save lives, and create increased access to healthcare and consequences for insurance companies that violate the rights of trans patients. 

“If a doctor prescribes a particular method of care and the conversation between the doctor and the patient is that is medically necessary and that this is what it takes for the patient to progress in their care goals, then that's what needs to be covered. We can't have insurance companies taking whole sections of trans healthcare off the table,” they say. “That's discriminatory and it doesn't really meet the needs of our community and in fact, harms our community specifically when we know that lack of access to gender affirming care can be a death sentence. It leads to higher risk of suicide and increased healthcare disparities.” 

“The Gender Affirming Treatment Act is a huge win and we owe our thanks to the community organizers for their tireless efforts to get this law passed,” says Peter Mann-King. “Whether we’re part of the community or an ally, we can all do our part in ensuring we take actions to ensure the LGBTQIA+ community can access safe, compassionate, and high-quality healthcare.”   

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