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Rules protecting LGBT people from discrimination have a big impact on health care

Gov. Larry Hogan recently enacted three health care regulations that were initially tagged for further review, one of which focused on banning discrimination against Medicaid patients due to sexual orientation and gender identity ("After delay, Hogan to implement Medicaid regulation banning LGBT discrimination," Jan. 29).

The initial withholding of this regulation angered advocates and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. As a current occupational therapy graduate student, I am acutely aware of the fact that changes to medical legislation and regulation will impact my future as a clinician.

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The discrimination-free coverage of the LGBT community will allow increased access to health-care services for these individuals. This is wonderful because occupational therapists will now be able to provide their services just as they always have to these individuals, but now the language of the law demonstrates support for and protection of these individuals.

This is absolutely a positive effect of the newly enforced regulation. On the other hand, as the demand of a health care service grows, there needs to be an equal growth in the supply. Occupational therapists tend to have full and demanding caseloads, so an increase in clinicians may be necessary to accommodate this new regulation.

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Increased population demands may lead to overworked clinicians or decreased quality of service. Additionally, further education or training may be needed to ensure that the best services are consistently provided to the LGBT community. If the health care system is given support and allocated proper funding for addressing these issues, there will not be a problem. However, if inadequate accommodations are made, this necessary revision in language could present some future problems for allied health fields.

Thus, positives or negatives could result from the changes made by Mr. Hogan.

Even so, the implementation of this regulation is vital to increasing the LGBT community's access to health resources. This in turn will increase their access to occupational therapy services. If individuals are covered and protected under the language of the law, they are much more likely to seek out the skills and assistance of professionals.

The inclusion of the LGBT community in health care legislation is long overdue. Individuals should not be discriminated against or denied services because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. I commend Mr. Hogan for his support of this regulation and I am excited to see what other changes he is going to make in office.

Elizabeth Bondarenko, Pittsburgh

The writer is a master's degree candidate in occupational therapy at the University of Pittsburgh.

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