HHS Holds Roundtable at Mazzoni Center to Learn About Challenges in Gender-Affirming Care

HHS Holds Roundtable at Mazzoni Center to Learn About Challenges in Gender-Affirming Care

With the ongoing specter of legislation and backward-thinking judicial rulings creating increasing concern about access to gender-affirming care, navigating a complicated landscape requires thoughtful partners at every level, from community medical centers to government agencies.

While one might assume that a comprehensive community-based LGBTQ health and wellness center such as Mazzoni Center would look to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) for support (and, of course, it does), when HSS wants to better understand the obstacles that exist in providing competent and sensitive gender-affirming care, the federal agency looked to Mazzoni Center.

In early December, a six-person delegation from the Department of Health and Human Services, led by the Director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Melanie Fontes Rainer, visited Mazzoni Center for a tour and to convene a roundtable on the challenges experienced in providing gender-affirming care.

Mazzoni Center was honored to be chosen to host this event and was pleased to welcome representatives of allied organizations, including Bebashi, PA Youth Congress, William Way LGBTQ Community Center, and the Mayor's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the City of Philadelphia.

Prior to the roundtable, HHS staff toured the Mazzoni Center Bainbridge Street facility, where they were able better understand the thoughtful manner in which the Center provides comprehensive health and wellness services in a safe and affirming environment.

The roundtable discussion was both frank and enlightening, as representatives discussed issues ranging from access to vaccine supplies to navigating obstacles regarding insurance coverage. Mazzoni Center staff were able to provide the HHS team with real-life examples of some of the barriers Mazzoni Center providers and patients have experienced in working to get insurance coverage for care and gender-affirming surgeries.

Mazzoni Center Practice Supervisor Eric Rega reflected, “We’re super lucky here in PA and here at Mazzoni Center specifically to experience less direct discrimination for and by our patients, compared to other states, as a result of state law and of just being knowledgeable and resourced enough to help folk navigate health care while avoiding those situations. But even in this state, city, and facility, replacing direct discrimination with the administrative burden that insurance places upon LGBTQ care still causes irreparable harm to our patients.”

HHS staff listened attentively to Mazzoni Center and its allied partners in attendance, demonstrating a genuine interest in learning how we can partner together to overcome these challenges. HHS representatives from both national and regional offices pledged to provide their ongoing support and resources to assist in navigating these challenges, including providing specific guidance for the submission of civil rights complaints.

We look forward to an ongoing and growing partnership with HHS staff as we work to continually improve gender-affirming care for our Mazzoni Center community