Susan Thompson Hingle, MD, FACP
Chair, American College of Physicians
Washington (May 5, 2017)—The American College of Physicians (ACP) is concerned about the potential impact of the May 4 executive order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty signed by President Trump on reducing access to contraception and weakening protections against discrimination for LGBTQ persons. While the order does not yet specifically make any changes in federal regulations affecting women’s access to contraception or non-discrimination against LGBTQ persons, it creates a process that could result in adverse impacts on them.
Specifically, Section 3 of the order instructs agencies to consider amending the regulations that provide for contraceptive coverage and other preventive care under the Affordable Care Act. ACP believes that all insurance plans and products should cover the full, evidence-based essential health benefit package. Allowing employers to selectively opt-out of providing any of the evidence-based preventive and screening services would undermine essential consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act, leading to under-insurance, poorer health outcomes and potentially discriminatory health benefit packages. This would have a disproportionately adverse effect on low-income persons, because they will be less likely to have the financial resources needed to purchase such services on their own, ultimately exacerbating racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities.
Section 4 of the order instructs federal agencies to issue new guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law. In a 2015 paper, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Disparities, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP said that discriminatory policies that affect LGBTQ persons reinforce environmental and social factors that negatively impact their physical and mental well-being. Discriminatory policies often keep LGBTQ persons from accessing health care and are also associated with increased rates of anxiety, suicide, and substance or alcohol abuse. ACP is concerned that a broad interpretation of religious freedom protections could lead to changes in current federal guidelines or regulations that offer protections to LGBTQ individuals such as those that ensure hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples and their families. ACP remains committed to opposing discrimination and improving the health of all Americans.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in over 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 148,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.
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