Friday, January 19, 2018

APA Voices Concerns About Broadening Religious-Based Exemptions in Health Care

APA today issued a statement expressing concerns that broadening religious exemptions for health care providers would allow them to discriminate and deny care because of a patient's gender identity, sexual orientation, or reproductive health decisions.

The statement comes one day after the Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office of Civil Rights. It will be responsible for handling complaints by health care workers who feel their beliefs conflict with the care they are being asked to provide.

“I am deeply concerned that our patients—many of whom already face unique health challenges—may now be denied care because of their providers’ personal beliefs. We know that discriminatory policies harm our patients’ mental health and well-being,” APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said in the statement. “Laws allowing religious refusals of care must avoid harming patients’ health or imposing another’s moral beliefs on patients.”

In a November 2017 letter from APA to HHS, Levin wrote, “The mission of DHHS is ‘to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans,’ and we are concerned about any regulatory changes that would roll back protections to ensure all patients are treated with dignity and respect and have access to care without fear of discrimination.”

(Image: iStock/JTSorrell)