Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equality Index 2010

cross-posted from Sum of Change

In early June the Human Rights Campaign released the 2010 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) after several months of study and survey of two-hundred medical institutions across the country. The study discovered that, on the whole, the vast majority of these institutions were lacking official policies protecting the visitation and decision making rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) patients and their families. The results in Washington, DC, where we are located, were not pretty:

“New healthcare equality analysis from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation found that no healthcare facilities in the Washington, D.C., metro area reviewed for the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) 2010 have fully inclusive non-discrimination policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.”

While many of these hospitals and organizations are moving in the right direction, the annual publication of the HEI over the last several years provides an important and detailed marker of where the nation stands in terms of LGBT healthcare rights.

We spoke with Ellen Kahn and Tom Sullivan, the Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the HRC Family Project and co-editors of the 2010 Healthcare Equality Index. This year is especially important for the HEI project. For the first time, the survey has switched from a volunteer sampling of hospitals (a method which skewed results largely towards institutions with good LGBT policies) to a survey of a random group of 200 institutions nationwide. This method allowed for more accurate and unbiased results, and provides an honest basis from which to improve these policies over the years to come. Furthermore, the publication of the 2010 edition came just weeks after President Obama’s April 15 memorandum protecting LGBT visitation rights in hospitals. This is the most direct measure the Executive branch has ever taken towards protecting LGBT rights in healthcare settings.

While the HEI has pointed to obvious flaws in the current system, Kahn and Sullivan – along with countless others – remain hopeful that policies will be continually improving, bolstered by President Obama’s memorandum and the desire of hospitals themselves to do better than they have been.