New laws addressing health care, business in LGBT community take effect 

Health care providers across the state will be required to receive expanded training to better understand and accommodate the needs of LGBT individuals under a new bill that has become law.

Authored by state Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, Assembly Bill 496 requires health care providers to include LGBT-specific issues in the cultural competency training their workers receive. Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed the bill into law, along with another piece of legislation authored by Gordon, Assembly Bill 1678, which requires public utilities to implement a program that encourages soliciting bids from LGBT-owned businesses when purchasing goods or services.

AB 496 aims to address inequities in medical treatment for LGBT patients due to a lack of provider understanding of certain issues affecting the community.

Gordon said that as a result, LGBT community members can have a variety of negative experiences with health care practitioners. Some examples include lesbian couples who have been unable to find OB-GYN doctors willing to discuss in vitro fertilization options with them, and gays and lesbians who haven't been treated with respect by hospital staff while visiting their hospitalized life partners, Gordon said.

Gay-rights activist Jason Galisatus applauded the new law, noting that the Peninsula is home to many LGBT senior citizens. He said it's common for gay seniors in certain cases to "go back into the closet" when dealing with hospital staff, and that can affect the quality of the care they receive. Galisatus, who was instrumental in creating San Mateo County's recently formed LGBT commission, said that as a gay man, he'd like to be able to discuss pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) -- a drug designed to prevent the transmission of HIV -- with his doctor, and believes cultural competency training would ensure that doctors are better able to offer advice about such medications.

He added that because gay men, transgender people and people of color have higher rates of HIV infection, it's especially important that they feel safe communicating with doctors about their medical histories and risk factors.

While the new health care law extends to LGBT patients accommodations that already existed for members of racial and ethnic minority groups, AB 1678 similarly extends to LGBT contractors certain protections that already applied to businesses owned by women, people of color and veterans. Under the new law, public utilities are required to include LGBT-owned businesses in the same outreach efforts they conduct when soliciting bids from minority, women and veteran-owned

businesses.The California Public Utilities Commission releases annual reports disclosing the number of letters sent out to solicit bids from contractors in those groups, as well as the number of purchases and jobs awarded to those contractors, Gordon noted. However, the new law does not guarantee that contracts will be awarded to LGBT-owned businesses, and contractors who submit the lowest credible bids are still the most likely to win a utility's business, he added.

"All this law does is put LGBT contractors at the table so they have a chance to win," Gordon said.

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