Assembly passes bill to make law against discrimination in health care more inclusive


STATE HOUSE – As Rhode Islanders celebrate Pride month, the General Assembly today formalized protections in state law against discrimination in health care.

The legislation (2023-S 0412, 2023-H 5428aa), sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray and Rep. Edith H. Ajello, amends the state law establishing patients’ rights, guaranteeing that patients “shall not be denied appropriate care on the basis of age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, color, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, source of income, source of payment or profession.”

Current law includes protections against discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or source of payment.

The additional protections are already current practice in Rhode Island, because they are provided in the federal Affordable Care Act and Public Health Services Act.

But the sponsors note that the state law has become outdated, and making it more inclusive sends a clear message that the state respects the rights of all people to get the health care they need.

“This is a very simple change, but it’s really important, because this bill affirms Rhode Island’s commitment to protect all citizens, especially LGBTQIA+ people who are not explicitly protected in the existing law,” said Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield).

 The legislation passed the House today after being approved by the Senate Tuesday. It will now be forwarded to the governor.

The bill was supported by the Special Commission to Study Ensuring Racial Equity and Optimizing Health and Safety Laws Affecting Marginalized Individuals, which Representative Ajello chaired. That commission learned that workers in the sex industry still face discrimination based on their source of income as an obstacle to getting the health care they need. 

“Our state law is a statement of our values here in Rhode Island. It must be consistent with our expectation of protection against discrimination for every patient. Everyone, no matter what, needs and deserves access to health care. This change is long overdue, and we are proud that Rhode Island is a place where all people are accepted and protected,” said Representative Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence).