86th Annual Meeting

Oppose HHS' Proposed Regulation Entitled "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority"

  • WHEREAS, under current federal health care provider conscience protection statutes, public officials and authorities may not require health care personnel, health care facilities, or health insurance plans to perform, assist in the performance of, pay for, or provide coverage for any sterilization or abortion procedure if it is contrary to his or her religious beliefs or moral convictions; and

    WHEREAS, on January 26, 2018, HHS announced a proposed regulation to expand the procedures and services health care personnel and entities may object to performing based upon their religious beliefs and moral convictions. These services include the provision of basic health care to certain patients based upon the patient's gender identity or sexual orientation, birth control, hearing screenings, occupational illness testing, vaccinations, and mental health treatment; and

    WHEREAS, the proposed rule also expands the health care personnel who may refuse to provide services to anyone "with an articulable connection to a procedure, health service, health program or research activity."? Such personnel could include a myriad of participants in a healthcare encounter"?from intake and billing staff to pharmacists, translators, radiology technicians, and phlebotomists; and

    WHEREAS, the proposed rule gives healthcare personnel a free pass to discriminate against patients based upon their sex, gender, sexual orientation, and those whose actions or decisions conflict with the provider's alleged conscience objection; and

    WHEREAS, the expansion of services and procedures for which health care personnel may object to performing and the expansion of health care personnel who may refuse provide services will cause significant disruptions and delays for patients; and

    WHEREAS, the proposed rule gives health care personnel wide latitude in opting out of treating patients, and at a minimum, a denial will mean that patients who are turned away will experience delays and increased expenses in receiving care; and

    WHEREAS, finding an alternate health care provider is not a simple task, because health plans have limited provider networks, caps on the number of specialty visits, and steep cost-sharing obligations; and

    WHEREAS, patients may live in areas with a limited number of primary care doctors, specialists, and specialty care facilities, and may be forced to travel great distances to find a provider willing to treat them. Also, patients who are elderly, patients with disabilities, and patients under the age of majority may be completely unable to access an alternate healthcare provider if refused care; and

    WHEREAS, the denials of care that will result if the proposed rule is adopted will have severe and often irreversible consequences, including unintended pregnancies, disease transmission, medical complications and anguish in the last days of life, and death; and

    WHEREAS, the extraordinary breadth of the proposed rule will result in significant and costly administrative burdens on an already-strained healthcare system. The proposed rule places healthcare entities in the precarious position of having to accommodate various ethical beliefs held by thousands of staff, regardless of how tenuous nature of their connection to the clinical encounter;

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors opposes the proposed regulation to expand statutory conscience rights in healthcare because it elevates healthcare providers' personal beliefs over patient health, and erects barriers to the delivery and receipt of timely, high quality health care;

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the proposed policy violates the 14th amendment by fostering a new standard of selective and discriminatory treatment for LGTQIA persons; and the proposed policy also violates the 10th amendment by impacting the ability of State and local governments to enforce the full scope of their health- and insurance-related laws and policies, and conditioning the receipt of federal funding on compliance with the rule.

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