Now that the Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed that Obamacare prohibits federally funded health care programs from discriminating against transgender people, Jay Kallio should finally be able to receive the cancer treatment he deserves.
Kallio, who transitioned from female to male at the age of 50 without undergoing gender reassignment surgery, repeatedly suffered a lower quality of care from medical professionals during a battle with breast cancer because his doctors treated his gender identity as a road block:
When a suspicious lump was found in his breast and tested positive for cancer, the surgeon was so shocked that Kallio’s body didn’t match his gender identification — not knowing whether to address him as “he” or “she” — that he couldn’t bring himself to tell his patient the grim biopsy results. [...]
Kallio, who is now 56 and lives in New York City, learned “accidentally” that he had breast cancer when the lab technician called to ask how he was doing with his diagnosis. “Which diagnosis?” Kallio asked, horrified.
And it happened a second time, when the medical oncologist was “hostile” and refused to advise him on treatments.
Later, Kallio said the doctor apologized: “I don’t think it interfered with the quality of your care.” In fact, it did. Having to find new doctors delayed the start of chemotherapy beyond the so-called “therapeutic window” for his particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.
Kallio told ABC News that the hostility he experienced from his doctors made it increasingly difficult for him to communicate with them about important information regarding his cancer prognosis, speculating that the doctors may have felt a “moral objection” to his gender identity. He was forced to look for new doctors who he hoped would better treat trans patients, but it has been a long process that has slowed down his treatment.
Fortunately, now that the health care reform law includes a Patient’s Bill of Rights explicitly preventing doctors from denying care based on a patient’s transgender medical history, Kallio’s experience should be a thing of the past. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has pointed out that “the Affordable Care Act may represent the strongest foundation we have ever created to begin closing LGBT health disparities.”
Kallio is glad to see the reforms put in place by Obamacare, saying that it is “very important” to limit the types of obstacles that he faced in the health care community among transgender people who may not be aware of their rights.