- Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth
Dharani Persaud, Coordinator
Boston — The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth celebrated the passage of An Act to Protect Access to Confidential Healthcare (PATCH Act), which Governor Baker publicly signed into law yesterday before holding a public ceremony today. The law, also known as S. 2296, was supported by one of the Commission’s key collaborator, the PATCH Alliance, a group that includes many health advocacy organizations from the Commonwealth.
The PATCH Act is designed to fix a loophole in healthcare privacy law in which insurance companies send materials to primary policyholders that discloses information about care that others in their family are receiving, even if that care is supposed to be confidential. This is problematic for youth and young adults who can remain on their parents’ plans until they are 26, but also have a right to healthcare privacy when they are on that plan, despite not being the primary policyholder. The new law places restrictions on insurers to ensure that sensitive information is not shared with those who are not otherwise authorized by the patient to receive it.
LGBTQ youth are in need of privacy protections like those offered by the PATCH Act because much of their imperative healthcare is stigmatized, especially for LGBTQ youth of color, who are also more likely to face disparities and need quality care. For example, LGBTQ youth and youth of color in particular have higher contraction rates of HIV and unmet mental health needs, and transgender youth may require a variety of healthcare services related to their gender identity.
“Only ten short years ago I had anxiety and tremendous fear when I first got tested for HIV,” said Commission Chair Alexander Nally. “I was only fourteen and had to lie to my father and say it was blood work for something else in order for him to drive me to the doctor’s office. He didn’t know yet that I was gay, and I feared for his reaction — but now, thanks to this law, the Commonwealth is one step closer to eradicating this fear once and for all.”
“There are already so many barriers that LGBTQ youth face in getting care — fear of discrimination, lack of family support, costs, and transportation,” said Commission Director Corey Prachniak-Rincón, in a joint press release sent by members of the PATCH Alliance. “We don’t want them to also fear being ‘outed’ because they went to see a doctor and their families received something sensitive in the mail.”
This fear may be part of the reason why many studies have found that LGBTQ youth tend to avoid seeking healthcare, even when it is necessary. The Commission hopes that the new law - especially if well-publicized and explained to young people - will help to decrease the fears LGBTQ youth associate with being able to access the care they need. “The Legislature and Governor Baker should be proud of the astounding victory they have achieved for LGBTQ youth and young adults of the Commonwealth this weekend,” said Nally.
The Commission also extends its thanks to the members of the PATCH Coalition, especially to Health Care for All, whose staff dedicated many hours to leading the group’s effort to support passage of this legislation.