USA, South Carolina, Columbia, State Capitol
South Carolina State Capitol Building. (Credit: Henryk Sadura / Getty Images)

A series of bills winding their way through the South Carolina Legislature would give any healthcare worker a “broad license to discriminate” against any group, including assisted living residents, based on personal beliefs, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

South Carolina HB 4776 and companion SB 811, the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, along with SB 1130, would disproportionately affect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals and other vulnerable communities by denying medical services based on the personal beliefs of medical practitioners and healthcare institutions rather than resident and patient need, according to the civil rights organization.

A spokeswoman from Human Rights Campaign called HB 4776 a “discriminatory healthcare bill” that negatively affects vulnerable people, including residents of assisted living communities. 

“If HB 4776 were to become law, assisted living facilities and their providers would have the right to refuse to provide patient care on the basis of personal, non-medical beliefs,” the spokeswoman told McKnight’s Senior Living. “These vulnerable patients already have limited options, and refusing to provide care would only deteriorate their ability to live a healthy life.”

The legislation could lead to the denial of gender-affirmation care, end-of-life care and mental health services based on the provider’s religious, moral, ethical or philosophical beliefs or principles, HRC maintains. 

The bills, according to the group, also would allow insurance companies and employers to refuse to reimburse, pay or contract for medically necessary services, including initial examination, testing, diagnosis, referral, medication administration, psychological therapy or counseling, research, prognosis or therapy.

“This bill sends the message that those seeking medical care in conflict with their doctor’s non-medical values are not equal members of society entitled to dignity and respect,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement. “Let’s call this what it is — a vicious, discriminatory attack on vulnerable patients, including those who care for LGBTQ+ people.”

HB 4776 passed the South Carolina House of Representatives on March 30 and is in the state Senate Committee on Medical Affairs.

The Human Rights Campaign said that this year alone, more than 320 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration by state legislatures across the country.

More than 500 major corporations have joined the Human Rights Campaign-led Business Coalition for the Equality Act in calling for the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act. The act would include explicit protections for LGBTQ+ people as well as improve protections for women, people of color and people of all faiths.