Florida’s House of Representatives will vote next week on a bill that would allow doctors and health insurance companies to deny care to anyone they want.
According to the bill, “a health care provider or health payor has the right to opt out of participation in or payment for any health care service on the basis of a conscience-based objection,” meaning based on their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.
Providers and insurers would face no consequences under the measure and would not be required to refer patients to a place that would provide the needed care. If they are penalized for denying care or coverage, the doctor or company can sue.
House Bill 1403 makes no mention of protections against gender- or race-based discrimination. Critics are worried that the sweeping nature of the text would let providers deny care or coverage to women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.
Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida, slammed the state legislature for government overreach, pointing out that the bill does not set a standard for potential objections.
“There is no definition of ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ in the bill. Who determines what constitutes a sincerely held moral or ethical belief, and more importantly, why should access to health care be denied based on such vague, imprecise, and subjective terms?” Gross said in a statement Wednesday. She cited examples that could lead to people denying care, such as believing people should not have children before marriage.
“Medical standards, not individual, subjective beliefs, should guide medical and health care services.”
HB1403 is the latest in an onslaught of measures that Florida Republicans have put forward attacking people’s rights and health care access. They have especially targeted LGBTQ rights, particularly for transgender people. Just Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would let the state take transgender minors away from their families if they are receiving gender-affirming care.
But HB 1403 makes clear that Republicans are perfectly fine with stripping rights away from everybody. Also on Wednesday, the House passed an anti-drag bill that is already stopping Pride parades and festivals in the state.
During the debate on that measure, Democrat Daryl Campbell warned that “right now, [Republicans are] going after the LGBTQ+ community. For those watching, they will come after you when it’s in their interest.”
It appears that is already happening in Florida.