Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1580, “Protections of Medical Conscience,” into law on Thursday, allowing Florida health care providers and payors to refuse services based on their moral, ethical or religious beliefs.
Senate Bill 1580 was one of more than a dozen bills closely watched by LGBTQ advocates who were concerned health care providers and insurers would use it to deny health care or coverage of health care to transgender people.
The legislation defined “conscience-based objection” as based on “a sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical belief.” At several points over the legislative session that adjourned last week, Republican lawmakers invoked their Christian beliefs to question the existence of transgender people and support bills that restricted their access to transition-related medical care.
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While the legislation says that health care providers can’t use it to deny care based on a patient’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin, attempts by Democratic lawmakers to extend those protections to gender identity and sexuality failed.
“This bill is a broad license for health care providers and insurance companies to refuse services to people. No one should be denied access to medical care. It gives health care providers and insurance companies an unprecedented ‘religious’ or ‘moral’ right to refuse to provide services. This puts patients in harm’s way, is antithetical to the job of health care providers, and puts the most vulnerable Floridians in danger. Our state should be in the business of increasing access to medical care, not giving providers and companies a sweeping carve out of nondiscrimination laws. Shame on the governor for putting Floridians’ health at risk to score cheap, political points,” said Brandon Wolf, press secretary for Equality Florida.
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Opponents worry the measure could lead to medical discrimination, especially against the LGBTQ community.
The ACLU of Florida called the bill “shocking in its breadth, vagueness and government overreach into the private sector and regulated businesses,” in its response following the bill’s passage in the House.
“This bill will disrupt the delivery of health care as we know it. If signed into law, Florida’s over 22 million residents’ access to healthcare will be subject to the whims of someone else’s alleged ethical beliefs,” wrote Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel of the ACLU of Florida, in an op-ed.
The bill states that the intent is to ensure health care providers and payors, such as insurance companies, can care for patients “in a manner consistent with their moral, ethical, and religious convictions” and “be free from threat of discrimination for providing conscience-based health care.”=
The law will go into effect on July 1.
Here’s what it does:
Health care providers and payors can deny services based on their moral, ethical and religious convictions
The first section of the bill lays out its intent to provide the “right of medical conscience” to health care providers and payors. The bill says it’s meant to ensure those providers and payors can care for patients in a manner that is consistent with their moral, ethical and religious convictions.
According to the ACLU, the bill defines a health care provider as “any healthcare provider or facility licensed under a dozen different statutes, including doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals, mental health providers, medical transport services, clinical lab personnel, nursing homes, and more.”
SB 1580: Read the full bill
It also states that the types of health care services they can deny are broadly defined as “including, but not limited to, medical research, medical procedures, testing, diagnosis, referral, dispensing medications, therapy, recordkeeping, and ‘any other care or service.’ ”
Health care payors include “any employer, as well as any health insurer, health plan, HMO, or ‘any other entity that pays for, or arranges for payment of, any health care service,’“ according to the ACLU.
Blocks healthcare providers and payors from liability for providing ‘conscience-based’ health care
The first section also lays out its intent to ensure that health care providers and payors are free from the threat of discrimination for providing “conscience-based” health care.
Prohibits medical boards, Department of Health from taking disciplinary action or denying licenses to such health care providers
The third section of the bill prohibits medical boards, or the department if there is no board, from taking disciplinary action against a health care practitioner’s license or denying a license to an individual if they have publicly spoken or written about a health care service or policy. This includes, but is not limited to, social media, according to the bill.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Florida SB 1580 now law. What conscience-based health care law does: